The Vancouver Whitecaps will attempt to silence some 50,000 critics on Saturday.
A crowd of 50,000-plus is expected as the Whitecaps (4-4-4) visit the Sounders (5-4-3) in a Major League Soccer game that has important implications in the Western Conference standings. With a win, the seventh-place Whitecaps can move ahead of sixth-place Seattle in the race for one of five available playoff berths.
Vancouver’s first road win of the season — a 2-1 decision over the New York Red Bulls last weekend — has revived the Whitecaps’ confidence as they prepare for a hostile reaction from fans in Seattle.
“We’re looking to go in there and cause a ruckus like we did in New York and turn some heads in this league, because obviously up to this point, some teams and some organizations have written us off,” said goalkeeper Brad Knighton.
The win over New York came after Vancouver lost the Canadian Championship to the Montreal Impact on away-goal differential and surrendered some late goals that resulted in draws in league play.
“We know that, deep down in our locker-room, we’ve got a group of guys that’s here to win games and here to win trophies,” said Knighton. “It just hasn’t clicked for a full 90 minutes this year.
“The results haven’t gone our way, but we can see we’re turning the corner.”
Vancouver must adjust to the departure of veteran defender Alain Rochat, who was traded Thursday to D.C. United for a pair of draft picks in 2015 and 2016. But when including all competition, the Caps have only lost twice in their past 10 games.
Midfielder Russell Teibert of Niagara Falls, Ont., said the Whitecaps will attempt to build on the positive feelings that have continued this week after their win over the Red Bulls.
“The biggest thing is that we did all the little things right against New York,” he said.
Teibert said the win, Vancouver’s first away from B.C. Place Stadium since July 2012, also showed that the Whitecaps can score goals on the road.
“We haven’t had the best of luck,” he said. “But against New York, we showed the positive signs.”
Knighton called the chance to play before such a large crowd a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many players, but stressed the Caps must not get overwhelmed by the occasion.
“Playing in front of those crowds is spectacular, and something that every player dreams of,” said Knighton. “But when it comes down to it, it’s 11 versus 11 on the field, and it’s a matter of how you perform on a particular day.
“It doesn’t matter who’s in the stands or how many people are at a game.”
The Vancouver-Seattle rivalry dates to the 1970s, when the teams played in the North American Soccer League before moving to lower-tier leagues. The Whitecaps have never beaten Seattle in five all-time MLS games, dropping two decisions while the clubs tied in three other contests.
The Sounders will be missing several regulars, although striker Obafemi Martins gained a reprieve from a one-game suspension following an appeal.
“Most of their defenders are playing, and I think they’ll still have a very strong team,” said Vancouver coach Martin Rennie. “And, of course, it’s such a big rivalry that I think everyone on the field, for either team, will be ready to go.”
Notes: Vancouver striker Kenny Miller, hampered by a hamstring injury most of the season, has scored in three of the four games in which he has appeared. a Whitecaps striker Darren Mattocks will miss his second straight game as he remains away on international duty with the Jamaican national team. a Jordan Harvey is slated to start on the back line as a result of Rochat’s trade. Harvey played there against New York while Rochat moved up to midfield. a Seattle’s Eddie Johnson, Brad Evans (both U.S.) and Mario Martinez (Honduras) are away with their national teams. Shalrie Joseph is serving the second of a two-game suspension for violent conduct against Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Marcelo Sarvas on May 26. a Injured Seattle midfielders midfielders Osvaldo Alonso (thigh) and Steve Zakuani (sports hernia) are also sidelined. a Vancouver is expected to be without injured midfielder Gershon Koffie (thigh) and defender Brad Rusin (calf). Midfielder Daigo Kobayashi (ankle) could return.