For the second year in a row, the Vancouver Whitecaps need a big result against their regional rivals to keep their weak playoff hopes alive.
History, however, is not on Vancouver’s side.
With just three games left in the regular season schedule, the Caps (10-14-7) desperately need a win against the Seattle Sounders (12-15-3) on Saturday at BC Place. Vancouver is four spots and six points out of a postseason spot while Seattle is two spots and four points below the bar.
“Obviously in our conditions a big one (needs a win) to stay alive,” said Whitecaps defender Julian Gressel, who will wear a Whitecaps jersey on Saturday. Sounders play for the first time. “And it’s a derby – I expect the fans want us to win it so badly.”
It has been more than five years since Vancouver last claimed a victory in Seattle, with the Sounders going 10-0-5 against the Caps since April 14, 2017.
Greisel said Seattle has long been a major league soccer powerhouse thanks to the quality of players on their roster.
“Look at their team — it’s unbelievable what they have in terms of (Nicolas) Loderio, (Jordan) Morris, (Raul) Rudiaz, (Albert) Rusnak, the list goes on, you know? He said “So they just have good quality and good players.”
The Sounders have reached the MLS Cup final in three of the past five seasons and lifted the trophy in 2019.
“For the last 10 years or so they’ve been one of the best teams in MLS,” Caps striker Brian White said. “Great players on both sides of this team and that’s why it’s always going to be a difficult game. It’s important for us to know how capable they are, the weapons they carry and be ready for that.”
The Sounders have already beaten the Caps once this year, a 4-0 win back in Seattle on June 14.
But Vancouver fought back to a 1-1 draw with their Cascadia rivals on November 7th of last year to secure a spot in the playoffs.
The club will need a similar performance on Saturday, head coach Vinny Sartini said.
“We need to be perfect defensively, we need to be very good at stopping them, and be very practical when we have the ball,” he said.
“We need to repeat the performance we did last year against them in the last game of the season, where we deserved to win. And if we do that, I think we have a good chance. “
Momentum will be on the Whitecaps side after the team posted an important 3-0 win over LA Galaxy on Wednesday. The result snapped a three-game losing skid for Vancouver.
White said it was the kind of performance the team could build on in the final stretch of the regular season.
“The way we scored, I think, it shows that when we go forward, we put balls in, we play balls at the back, we can be dangerous as a team,” he said.
“And also keeping a clean sheet I think helps build confidence at the back when you don’t concede any goals. So hopefully we can bring that into the game (Saturday).”
The Sounders come into Vancouver rested and on a two-game winning streak after beating Austin FC 3-0 last Saturday.
Still, the Whitecaps will be ready, Sartini said.
“I think they’re coming in here with full guns. And we need to go full shield,” the coach said. “We are Canadians, we are gun control.”
In and Out: The Whitecaps will be without striker Lucas Cavalli and midfielder Sebastian Berhalter, who are both serving suspensions. Winger Deborah Caicedo is also out for the season after knee surgery. The Sounders are missing midfielders Joao Paulo (knee), Cristian Roldan (heart) and Obed Vargas (back) and goalkeeper Andrew Thomas (back).
Rolling Stones: Not only is forward Raul Roydiaz the Sounders’ leading goalscorer, he’s also been a fixture in the Whitecaps side for a long time. Peru has eight goals in eight games against Vancouver.
Seattle Sting: The Sounders have yet to win three games in a row this season, a feat they have accomplished at least once in their first 13 MLS campaigns.