If the Seattle Sounders have traveled a fairly consistent road in MLS, the Vancouver Whitecaps have taken, well, a different path.
Seattle’s rival from north of the border has had four coaches in four seasons, finished last one year and made the playoffs the next. Many have considered the Whitecaps the overlooked team in the Northwest, but finally, it seems, an identity has developed.
“They’re young and they’re fast,” said Sounders defender Zach Scott.
And much improved. Vancouver, led by a quick attack, boasts a 4-2-4 record and ranks third in the Western Conference in points per game heading into the Cascadia Cup showdown today at BC Place.
For Seattle, the concerns weigh heavy as “young” and “fast” would probably be the last two adjectives to describe the Sounders defense, especially with DeAndre Yedlin away with the U.S. national team.
So can the Sounders keep up? That will be the big question as their top three center backs are on the wrong side of 30, or will be by August: Chad Marshall (29), Djimi Traore (34) and Scott (33).
To compare, Vancouver’s youthful front line features Kekuta Manneh (19), Omar Salgado (20), Erik Hurtado (23) and, when healthy, Darren Mattocks (23).
Manneh, in particular, ran wild in the last meeting, netting a hat trick in a 4-1 victory at CenturyLink Field last season in one of Seattle’s worst home defeats.
The track team up front has made many forget the Whitecaps actually lost the league’s leading scorer last season, Camilo.
“Those guys just strike fear into you just with their speed,” said coach Sigi Schmid.
A potential wild card on Seattle’s side could be the services of a player not initially expected to be available, Brad Evans, who was cut from the U.S. World Cup roster.
Evans rejoined the Sounders on Friday and made the trip to Vancouver, but it is uncertain if the 29-year-old will play, according to Schmid. The concerns are both physical (the national team camp was reportedly quite grueling) and mental (having to bounce back from the disappointment of missing the World Cup).