TUKWILA, Wash. — Throughout the more than 35-year-old rivalry between the Seattle Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps, change has been one of the few constants.
Rarely has that been more true than this year, as both teams have undergone significant facelifts since their first meeting on May 19. That’s expected to be one of the themes of Saturday afternoon’s encounter at CenturyLink Field (4 pm ET; TSN2/RDS in Canada, MLS Live in the US).
“They are a team that’s orienting themselves to speed up front with [Darren] Mattocks and [Dane] Richards,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “They are a physical team, in terms of the way they battle and the amount of fouls they commit. But they are a team that if you are not alert they are going to catch you because of their speed. We have to be alert, have to be aware of that. We have to do a good job of holding onto the ball and not giving them those chances.”
For all the changes the Whitecaps have made, the way they actually play is not all that different from the start of the season, and all in all it’s yielded mixed results. Although the Whitecaps have scored some impressive wins in recent weeks, they are still just 2-4-2 in their past eight games.
“We have to prepare like we want to get the three points and worry about us,” Sounders defender Jeff Parke said. “We have an idea of how they want to play, but in the back of our minds we know how we want to play and have to make them chase us.”
The Sounders have been a bit better of late. Despite a pair of gut-wrenching losses last week, they are still 3-1-3 in their past seven league games and are currently even with the Whitecaps on points (37) with two games in hand.
The tightness of the league standings has rendered the importance of the rivalry almost secondary.
“No, we’re still focused on what we were focused on before, which is winning the season series,” Schmid said when asked if he’s talked much about the Cascadia Cup this week. “We know that we tied the first game with Vancouver. We only have one home game, so we want to get the win here and then go to Vancouver, get something there and win the season series.
“We just gotta get points. It’s always about points. Being at home doesn’t guarantee points, you got to be ready and have to be ready to go.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.