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Five things to know when Sounders host the Vancouver Whitecaps

Sounders could end the night in a playoff position

CANADA-VANCOUVER-MLS-VANCOUVER WHITECAPS-SEATTLE SOUNDERS Photo by Andrew Soong/Xinhua via Getty Images

The Seattle Sounders return from a 16-day break to face a suddenly surging Vancouver Whitecaps, who have claimed 13 points in their past six league games. Here’s what you need to know:

First Cascadia Cup fixture of the season for Seattle

Another season means another Cascadia Cup is on the line. In case you are unfamiliar, every season a trophy is awarded to the team that manages to pick up the most points over their Cascadian counterparts. Portland currently leads the 2022 series with the 3 points they picked up over the Whitecaps back in April. Seattle is still yet to play against a Cascadia opponent in the 2022 MLS season, so Tuesday’s match is a great opportunity for them to jump to the top of the standings preceding their home game against Portland on July 7. The Sounders have won the past three Cascadia Cups, the first team to accomplish that feat since the trophy was first awarded 2004.

International absences

Technically, this month’s international window stretches all the way to Tuesday — the same day the Sounders face the Whitecaps. USMNT internationals Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris will be unavailable, as they are both in El Salvador preparing for a Concacaf Nations League match that kicks off about 30 minutes before Sounders-Whitecaps. Albert Rusnak will also be unavailable, as he recorded an assist for his home country Slovakia on Monday and won’t be in Seattle in enough time to suit up. Nouhou (Cameroon) and Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador) were with their national teams, but will both be back in Seattle in time for the match.

Vancouver defender Javain Brown (Jamaica) and attacker Lucas Cavallini (Canada) will be unavailable for the Whitecaps.

Playoff position up for grabs

The bottom half of the Western Conference is very congested. Just three points separate 13th-place San Jose from 7th-place Houston. The Sounders and the Whitecaps find themselves in the middle of that pack with 16 and 17 points, respectively. A win would be enough for either team to leapfrog the Colorado Rapids, Dynamo, and Minnesota United and go into the weekend in that last playoff spot.

It should also be noted this is one of the two MLS matches rescheduled during the Sounders’ CCL conquest. The other rescheduled match against FC Cincinnati was moved to Sept. 27.

Season of ups and downs for the visitors

Vancouver was one of the league’s most exciting teams to watch as the 2021 MLS season closed, and the hype around Vanni Sartini’s project continued through the entire off-season.

It did not go according to plan.

In their first 8 matches of the season, Vancouver picked up just four points out of a possible 24 and were last in the Supporters’ Shield standings. It has significantly improved through the past month, though. With only one loss in the past six matches, the Whitecaps now find themselves within reach of a playoff position with a win against the Sounders on Tuesday.

Opportunity for fringe players to show their worth

The international absences paired with injuries to Yeimar Gomez Andrade (hamstring), João Paulo (ACL), and Stefan Cleveland (face) will result in some golden opportunities for players farther down on Brian Schmetzer’s depth chart. We project that Jimmy Medranda, Leo Chu, Ethan Dobbelaere, and Jackson Ragen will all get chances to start. These four players most definitely have the talent, but have yet to cement themselves as consistent options off the bench this season.