The clubs’ crests will be the same, but the location, stakes and probable lineups will be considerably different Wednesday when the Seattle Sounders meet the Vancouver Whitecaps for the second time in five days.
On Saturday, the Sounders took a 3-0 win in Canada, snagging the 2015 Cascadia Cup and three crucial points in the Major League Soccer standings.
When the teams meet again this week at CenturyLink Field, Seattle’s CONCACAF Champions League future will hang in the balance. A win clinches Group F for the Sounders and sends them through to the knockout rounds next year. The Sounders are eliminated with a loss or a draw. Meanwhile, a win by the Whitecaps would send them through to the quarterfinals, while a draw would delay the result until Oct. 22, when they visit CD Olimpia in Honduras.
The players who take the pitch for this match could be considerably different from the ones who took part in the Sounders’ domination at BC Place. This is not only Seattle’s second game in five days, but it is also the middle match in a stretch of three games in nine days, as the Sounders return to MLS play Sunday at Sporting Kansas City.
There were few lineup clues to be had Monday, when the Sounders returned to training at Starfire Sports Complex, with players indecipherably divided on the pitch, on the sideline, and in the indoor work rooms.
“The guys who played on Saturday, we wanted them to (regenerate) a little more,” coach Sig Schmid said. “Everybody likes to do it a little bit differently, so a couple of guys stayed inside, a couple of guys came out and ran, a couple of guys came out and did a little (five on two), and there are always a couple of guys who want to come out and play a little bit more.”
At Vancouver, Schmid went primarily with the top lineup available to him. There will probably be more of a mixture Wednesday. Some of that could be by choice: No. 2 goalkeeper Troy Perkins has handled most CONCAFAC duty this season, for example. But part will be by practical necessity: 10 of the Sounders who started Saturday were age 29 or older, and some of those will need to be rested.
The weekend win put the Sounders five points clear of the Western Conference playoff red line, and that additional breathing room could give Schmid more freedom to use key guys in CCL rather than saving them for the weekend return to MLS.
“We’ll see,” Schmid said. “I think the No 1 thing for our team is to make sure that our players continue to improve physically. … Are they (all) 90-minutes fit yet? No, probably not. So we don’t want to put any player into a situation where we’re going to jeopardize injuring them. But on the same token, it’s a game we have to win, and there’s a mix that will probably (play) in this game a little more so than in the past games.”
Seattle catches one break in that its next MLS match comes Sunday, rather than Saturday. Schmid said that extra 24 hours of recovery time is significant.
“It certainly helps in the other end,” Schmid said. “I think one of the games we played this year we had to go from Sunday into Wednesday to play. These are better breaks, for sure.”
Schmid had no prognosis on midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, who left the Vancouver match with an apparent leg injury. However, Schmid said Alonso reported he was feeling better. … The Sounders remind fans that tickets to the Wednesday match are included as part of the season-ticket package.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808