VANCOUVER,B.C. - The last club you want to face when you're going through a tough spell is the one topping the MLS table. But the Vancouver Whitecaps are relishing the visit of the Seattle Sounders to BC Place on Saturday evening (10pm ET; MLS Live in US, TSN2 in Canada).
Reigning Cascadia Cup champions Vancouver will be looking to return to the form that had seen them unbeaten in eight before taking just one point and scoring no goals in their last two games.
"With everything that's happened so far, this is the perfect game," Nigel Reo-Coker told reporters at training. "I think right now this would be the perfect test, the perfect game for us to bounce back and get back on track.
"It's a great test for the team. Top of the league, no one expects us to win this game. They're seen as the best team in the league at the moment and for us, as an emerging young team, it's a great time to prove to people that we're up there and we should be taken seriously as a team as well."
Reo-Coker may claim one of the midfield roles for Vancouver on Saturday, with Steven Beitashour back from the World Cup with Iran and looking to return to the right back spot he had been filling.
The Sounders will not be at full strength, with midfield pair Osvaldo Alonso and Gonzalo Pineda both suspended and others out injured. Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin are expected to play limited to no part in Saturday's showdown after returning from Brazil, but weakened team or not, Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted knows that these derby games bring something special out of whoever he will be facing.
"The players they have out are good players but it seems that in these Cascadia Cup derbies that the players who are coming in grow 10, 15 percent just because it's a Cascadia game," Ousted told MLSsoccer.com.
"I definitely don't think it's going to be an easy game. They're probably the best team in the league right now and even though they have some suspensions and some guys have been away with the national team, they're coming to our place with a desire to win and we have to match that and surpass it."
Vancouver will certainly be buoyed and looking to build on the meeting between the two sides in May that saw the Whitecaps eight minutes away from victory before a controversial penalty call saw the Sounders come away with a share of the points.
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The 'Caps are looking at how to get that intensity back and coach Carl Robinson is reminded of an old adage from his former Welsh international boss John Toshack.
"It's like lying in bed," Robinson mused to media at training. "You've got the quilt over your feet and your head gets cold, so you pull it over your head and your feet get cold. It's the attacking and defending transitional play. That's the dilemma we have.
"We've got to get back to dictating possession but also being a threat in the final third. If teams tend to sit back, how can we break them down? We know we've got quick players but do we have players with an understanding of how to move players out of position because Seattle are a very, very organised team. They like to get eight, nine men behind the ball. So we're going to have to be open and expansive but also a little bit creative in our final third play."