For the second year in a row, the Vancouver Whitecaps need a big result against their regional rivals in order to preserve their faint playoff hopes.
History, though, is not on Vancouver’s side.
With just three games left on the regular-season schedule, the ‘Caps (10-14-7) are in desperate need of a win over the Seattle Sounders (12-15-3) at B.C. Place on Saturday. Vancouver sits four spots and six points out of a post-season berth while Seattle is two places and four points below the bar.
“Obviously a big one in terms of us [needing a win] to stay alive,” said Whitecaps defender Julian Gressel, who’ll play the Sounders for the first time in a Whitecaps jersey on Saturday. “And it’s a derby – I’m expecting the fans want us to win pretty badly this one.”
It’s been more than five years since Vancouver last claimed a victory over Seattle, with the Sounders going 10-0-5 against the ‘Caps since April 14, 2017.
Seattle has long been a Major League Soccer powerhouse thanks to the quality of players on their roster, Gressel said.
“Look at their squad – it’s incredible what they have in terms of [Nicolas] Loderio, [Jordan] Morris, [Raul] Ruidiaz, [Albert] Rusnak, the list goes on and on, you know?” he said. “So they just have good quality, good players.”
The Sounders have been to the MLS Cup final in three of the past five seasons and hoisted the trophy in 2019.
“The last 10 years or so they’ve been one of the best teams in MLS,” said ‘Caps striker Brian White. “Great players on both sides of that team and so it’s always going to be a difficult game. It’s important for us to know the talent they have, the weapons that they have going forward and be prepared for that.”
The Sounders have already thumped the ‘Caps once this year, taking a 4-0 win in Seattle back on June 14.
But Vancouver battled their Cascadia counterparts to a 1-1 draw on Nov. 7 last year to clinch a spot in the playoffs.
The club will need a similar performance on Saturday, said head coach Vanni Sartini.
“We need to be perfect defensively, we need to be very good in shutting them down, and being very practical when we have the ball,” he said.
“We need to replay kind of the performance that we did against them last year in the last game of the season, where we deserved to win. And if we do it, I think that we have a great chance.”
Momentum will be on the Whitecaps’ side after the team posted a crucial 3-0 win over the L.A. Galaxy on Wednesday. The result snapped a three-game losing skid for Vancouver.
White said it’s the kind of performance the team can build on through the final stretch of the regular season.
“The way we scored the goals, I think, shows when we get forward, we cross balls in, play balls in behind, we can be dangerous as a team,” he said.
“And also building off of the clean sheet think it helps build confidence from the back when you don’t let any goals in. So hopefully we can bring that into [Saturday’s] game.”
The Sounders come to Vancouver rested and on a two-game win streak after blanking Austin FC 3-0 last Saturday.
Still, the Whitecaps will be ready, Sartini said.
“I think they come in here with full guns. And we need to go full shields,” the coach said. “We are Canadian, we are for gun control.”
Seattle Sounders (12-15-3) at Vancouver Whitecaps (10-14-7)
B.C. Place, Saturday
INS AND OUTS: The Whitecaps will be without striker Lucas Cavallini and midfielder Sebastian Berhalter, who are both serving suspensions. Winger Deiber Caicedo is also out for the season after undergoing knee surgery. The Sounders are missing midfielders Joao Paulo (knee), Cristian Roldan (groin) and Obed Vargas (back), and goalkeeper Andrew Thomas (back).
ROLLING RUIDIAZ: Not only is forward Raul Ruidiaz the Sounders’ leading scorer, he’s also long been a thorn in the side of the Whitecaps. The Peruvian has eight goals in eight games against Vancouver.
SEATTLE STREAKING: The Sounders haven’t won three games in a row yet this season, a feat they accomplished at least once in each of their first 13 MLS campaigns.