If Sounders FC has traveled a fairly consistent road in MLS, the Vancouver Whitecaps have taken, well, a different path.
Seattle’s rival north of the border has had four coaches in four seasons, finished last place one year and made the playoffs the next. Many have considered the Whitecaps the overlooked team in the Northwest, but finally, it seems, an identity has developed.
“They’re young and they’re fast,” said Sounders defender Zach Scott.
And much improved. Vancouver, led by a fearsomely quick attack, boasts a 4-2-4 record and ranks third in the Western Conference in points per game heading into the 4 p.m. Cascadia Cup showdown Saturday at BC Place.
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For Seattle, the concerns weigh heavy as “young” and “fast” would probably be the last two adjectives to describe the Sounders’ defense, especially with DeAndre Yedlin away with the U.S. national team.
So can the Sounders keep up? That will be the big question as their top three center backs are on the wrong side of 30, or will be by August: Chad Marshall (29), Djimi Traore (34) and Scott (33).
To compare, Vancouver’s youthful front line features Kekuta Manneh (19), Omar Salgado (20), Erik Hurtado (23) and, when healthy, Darren Mattocks (23). Manneh, in particular, ran wild in the last meeting, netting a hat trick in a stunning 4-1 victory at CenturyLink Field last season in one of Seattle’s worst home defeats.
The track team up front has made many forget the Whitecaps actually lost the league’s leading scorer last season, Camilo.
“Those guys just strike fear into you just with their speed,” said coach Sigi Schmid.
A potential wild card on Seattle’s side could be the services of a player not initially expected to be available, captain Brad Evans, who was one of the final cuts from the USMNT’s World Cup roster.
Evans rejoined the Sounders on Friday and made the trip to Vancouver, but it is uncertain if the 29-year-old will play, according to Schmid. The concerns are both physical (the national team camp was reportedly quite grueling) and mental (having to bounce back from the disappointment of missing the World Cup).
Asked how Evans handled the news, Schmid said: “I’ve known Brad a long time, and not just Brad, but any player, what you’re going to do is you’re going to use that stiff upper lip and you’re going to try to put a good face on it and you’re going to try to be strong, but there is pain inside.
“If you don’t walk away with some pain inside, you’re not human. It’s going to take a little bit of time, but he’s a strong guy, he’s a strong character, this team means a lot to him, this organization means a lot to him, and when he steps on the field, he’s going to be 100 percent committed.”
• The Sounders could be without Federal Way product Lamar Neagle, who has been recovering from what Schmid deemed a “minor” hamstring injury. Homegrown product Sean Okoli had an MRI on his knee after the reserve game Sunday, but the test revealed no structural damage.
• USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann, in a news conference Friday, discussed his decision to include so many young players in his World Cup roster, players like the 20-year-old Yedlin. Asked if it was with the 2018 World Cup in mind, Klinsmann said: “No, this is based on today. It is our strong feeling that these guys are ready. … Some have a learning curve ahead of them, (but) they are ready for the learning curve and they might surprise some people out there.”
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org