MLS Soccer

Sounders, Whitecaps begin series of duels

AP

The Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps have unfinished business, and they’re about to settle it.

Over the next few days, the clubs will determine the 2015 Cascadia Cup winner, influence their respective Supporters’ Shield and playoff hopes, and perhaps determine which club advances out of group play in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Those first two issues begin playing out at 4 p.m. Saturday, when the Sounders visit the Whitecaps for a Major League Soccer regular-season match at BC Place.

“We’ve got to make a push,” captain Brad Evans said. “It’s a Cascadia Cup game. We win this and we get the Cup and we’ve got a couple of more (incentives). ... We can leap up in the standings, separate ourselves from the pack. Also Cascadia Cup, as well. Multiple things on the line with this game.”

The Whitecaps went into the weekend with the most points in the league, six ahead of the fourth-place Sounders in the Western Conference. Seattle is two points ahead of San Jose, which is in seventh place — the first spot that fails to make the playoffs.

Neither team can clinch a playoff spot or be eliminated this weekend.

However, this game will crown the winner of the Cascadia Cup. Seattle comes in with nine points over five games, while Vancouver is one point behind. Portland already has completed the competition, ending with five points.

That means the Sounders take the Cup with a win or a draw, while the Whitecaps hold the Cup for a record third straight season with a victory.

“Really haven’t talked to the guys about that,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said Thursday. “For us, it’s all about being focused, getting into a good rhythm, making sure that we can establish our ability to get results on the road — which we did last week at San Jose — and get another good result on the road here. We’re concerned about our rhythm, and so if Cascadia Cup comes along with it, we’re certainly going to take it. But we’re not going to put ourselves in a situation where winning that takes us away from our end focus, which is to get to the playoffs and make a run at MLS Cup.”

Seattle is expected to be in unusually good health for this match. Designated players Obafemi Martins, Clint Dempsey and Nelson Valdez are expected to start together for the second consecutive weekend. Evans successfully completed the league’s concussion protocol. Schmid said midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz could be ready to go 60-75 minutes after making his club debut last week at San Jose. Osvaldo Alonso is eligible again after missing the ’Quakes game due to yellow card accumulation. And Chad Marshall (leg), who missed some training this week, returned Friday and is expected available.

The only starter known to be unavailable is centerback Roman Torres, who is lost for the season after suffering a season-ending knee injury last weekend. He could be replaced by Evans or veteran Zach Scott.

Once this match concludes, the teams will keep their focus on each other, as they meet again Wednesday — in Seattle this time — in group play of the CONCACAF Champions League. A win next week will send the Sounders through to the knockout rounds. Any other result eliminates them.

REIGN COACH HONORED

Seattle Reign FC coach Laura Harvey was honored Friday as the National Women’s Soccer League’s coach of the year.

Harvey led the Reign (13-3-4) to the best record in the league and a spot in the NWSL championship game Oct. 1 in Portland against defending champion FC Kansas City.

Harvey, 35, also won the honor last season, becoming the first NWSL repeat winner.

NWSL awards are voted on by journalists, club officials, players and fans.

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (15-10-3; 48 POINTS) VS. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (13-13-3; 42 POINTS)

4 p.m. Saturday, BC Place, Vancouver, British Columbia.

TV: JOEtv. RADIO: 97.3 FM.

HEAD TO HEAD: Vancouver leads the MLS series 5-4-4. The clubs are even at 2-2-3 in Vancouver. In the two regular-season meetings this season, the Sounders won 2-0 in Vancouver and the Whitecaps won 3-0 in Seattle. This is the final meeting of this regular season.

NOTES: With a win, Vancouver becomes the first team to win three straight Cascadia Cups. Any other result returns the Cup to Seattle. … The Sounders are 3-1-1 over their last five matches, while the Whitecaps are 3-2. … The Whitecaps have allowed a league-low 28 goals. … Vancouver is 8-4-1 at home and has won four straight at BC Place. Seattle is 3-9-2 on the road and coming off a 1-1 draw at San Jose. … The Sounders are in unusually good health, with center back Roman Torres (knee) the only starter known to be unavailable. … Obafemi Martins leads Seattle with 12 goals, while Octavio Rivero tops Vancouver with 10. … These teams are tied for the fewest draws in MLS. … Whitecaps midfielder Mauro Rosales began his MLS career as a Sounder. … Vancouver midfielder Matias Laba is out due to yellow card accumulation. Seattle’s Oniel Fisher, Gonzalo Pineda, Andy Rose and Zach Scott are one caution away from accumulation suspension. … The referee is Baldomero Toledo.

QUOTE: “We maintained possession of the ball, we made them chase it. And we did a good job defensively taking away their speed. Obviously their speed is always a factor. They rely on their youth and exuberance. I know they think we’re an old team, so they want to try and run us, but we just have to make sure we negate that and we do what we do well, which is possess the ball — and we’ve got some guys up top who can finish.” — Seattle coach Sigi Schmid on what the Sounders did well in their early win over the Whitecaps.

NEXT: These teams meet again at 7 p.m. Wednesday at CenturyLink Field in the CONCACAF Champions League. Seattle’s next MLS match is Sept. 27 at Sporting Kansas City.

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