BURNABY, B.C. – Saturday is derby day for the Vancouver Whitecaps, as they host the Seattle Sounders in a must-win Cascadia Cup clash (9 pm ET, NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com),
And as the anticipation builds in the stands on matchday, and the fans go through the ups and downs that every 90 minutes bring, the man down on the touchline will be well in tune with the emotions of the occasion.
“When it’s lively and emotional you can feel that,” Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie told reporters after a training session at Swangard Stadium on Thursday. “When it’s a little bit flat you can sense that as well. I think everybody in the stadium is aware of it.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re coaching, playing or watching – you can feel it.”
It’s a key match for a number of reasons – the local rivalry, the fact Vancouver sits in the Western Conference’s final playoff spot with a two-point advantage over FC Dallas and because Vancouver has yet to pick up a win against Cascadia opposition.
That final point is something that needs to be remedied quickly, given the club plays two of its next three matches against regional rivals in the heat of its race to secure a first-ever MLS Cup playoffs berth.
“It’s not good enough,” Rennie said of the club’s 0-5-3 record against Cascadia opposition. “That needs to improve and there’s a chance to do that in the last few games we’ve got, and it needs to be better.”
Rennie is well aware of how important the match is to fans, having travelled up and down Scotland as a fan of Falkirk FC.
“At the end of the day I’m a soccer fan,” Rennie said. “I’ve been on the bus for four hours going to different places to support my team and I’ve come home happy and I’ve come home sad. I know what it’s like to be a supporter. It means an awful lot and there’s no doubt about it – the players will understand and already do know how much it means to fans and how much they have to put into games on the back of that.
“Derby games are the ones you love and remember provided you do things right.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.