For the Seattle Sounders, there’s just something about spending American holidays in Canada.
Over Memorial Day weekend, the Sounders traveled to Vancouver for a 2-2 tie with Whitecaps FC. Now, over Fourth of July weekend, the first-place Sounders (11-3-2) will return to face the Whitecaps (5-3-7) for the second time this season.
“Somehow going to Canada on the Fourth of July has a unique quality to it for whatever reason” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said.
The match will have implications for the Cascadia Cup, which notes supremacy among the region’s soccer teams.
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Leading this year’s Cup standings with four points is Vancouver (1-0-1), and Seattle (0-0-2) is second with two points. Portland (0-1-1) has one point, and will face Seattle at CenturyLink on July 13 in the next match of the series.
“I love when the soccer has even more meaning than just the league, just the Supporters’ Shield,” said Sounders forward Chad Barrett. “It’s our own little corner of the United States and we take so much pride in it. Who’s the best in the Northwest? Everybody wants to be.”
Saturday’s 7 p.m. game at BC Place will help settle that question. But Seattle will be without central midfielders Osvaldo Alonso and Gonzalo Pineda because of yellow card accumulation. U.S. men’s national team members Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin will most likely not play either after returning from Brazil this week.
Striker Obafemi Martins, however, will be back after a one-game suspension. Vancouver, which is fifth in the Western Conference, will have to devote more manpower to stopping Martins, who is tied with Dempsey for most goals (eight) on the season.
“He just takes so much attention on that back line and from what I hear it’s going to be a pretty inexperienced back line because they’re hurting,” Barrett said. “For some of their first games, to go up against Oba Martins, it’s unlucky for them.”
According to Schmid, the Whitecaps will use their speed against Seattle. Vancouver has not scored in its last two matches, but boasts a young front line.
Pedro Morales also anchors Vancouver’s midfield, and leads the team with six goals and five assists this year.
“Morales is a very important part of their team, playmaking from midfield, and you’ve got that pace up front,” Schmid said. “They try and expose you with that pace. I think in their first two games back they probably haven’t played direct enough at times to use that pace. With us, I expect them to probably come a little faster.”