The Sounders are expecting an added wrinkle in their game against Vancouver on Saturday.
In addition to being the first matchup in this season’s Cascadia Cup, the contest serves as the winless (0-3-0) Whitecaps’ first from a bye in MLS play.
“They’re going to be a desperate team,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “Their record is not what I’m sure (Vancouver coach) Marc (Dos Santos) wants it to be. It’s a home game. What better way to start their season than to beat their archrival? We are painfully aware of that fact.”
The match is the Sounders’ first after the FIFA international break. Five of the team’s six call-ups rejoined practice Thursday at Starfire Sports in Tukwila, and Schmetzer didn’t spot any lag in his players that would cause concern about playing a full 90 minutes in a return to MLS action.
Sounders players spent the week talking about extending the club’s hottest start — three wins, 10 goals and three goals against — since their inaugural MLS season in 2009. A fourth consecutive win Saturday would be a team record to open a season.
“Every game is like a final for us,” said midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro, who helped Uruguay win the China Cup during the international break. “We know (Vancouver) is a difficult game. … Playing with my national team is a good thing for me. Now I feel more motivation.”
Vancouver remade itself during the offseason, including hiring Dos Santos, previously an assistant coach with Los Angeles FC under Bob Bradley. South Korean midfielder Inbeom Hwang is a focal point of the Whitecaps’ attack, but former Sounders forward Fredy Montero, in his second stint with Vancouver, also remains a threat in the box.
To help combat Montero and the Whitecaps’ attack, Schmetzer said his players were sent individualized clips of game film to review during their travel to Vancouver on Friday.
“Fredy is a handful,” Sounders veteran defender Chad Marshall said. “You can’t give him any time or space or he’s going to punish you because he’s a lethal finisher.
“Records don’t matter in rivalry games. I’m sure they’ll come out flying and want to score goals and make their fans happy. And Fredy, historically, has been very good at scoring goals so we’ve got to know where he is at all times.”
Seattle is the defending Cascadia Cup champion and has won its past three matches against Vancouver.
“We want to continue to set records,” Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said. “Guys are focused in on that, let alone that we’re playing Vancouver — a rivalry. They’re a desperate team in terms of results but have been playing pretty good football. … It’s hard to know what to expect, but we do know that they have dangerous players and it’ll be a difficult game.”