VANCOUVER, B.C. – As far as Major League Soccer regular-season matches go, they don't really get much bigger. Not in June, anyway.
Certainly for the Vancouver Whitecaps, Saturday’s showdown with the Seattle Sounders down I-5 at CenturyLink Field (10:30 pm ET, NBCSN, TSN/RDS2 in Canada, LIVE chat on MLSsoccer.com) is their most important league match of the season thus far.
Both sides are currently out of a playoff position, and the general feeling is that both teams have underperformed this season.
Yet each team appears on the rise having performed well in recent weeks – the Whitecaps are undefeated in five matches in all competitions, and that spell includes wins over the LA Galaxy and the New York Red Bulls.
The Sounders, for their part, have won four of their last five league matches.
“We need to move up the table,” left back Jordan Harvey told MLSsoccer.com after a training session at the University of British Columbia on Friday. “Every game at this point is important, and this, as far as I’m concerned, is one of the most important matches of the season, right here – and we need to get a win against a Cascadia rival.”
The Sounders have sold well more than 50,000 seats for this game, and it’s also nationally televised on both sides of the border, so plenty of eyes will be focusing in on of the league’s blockbuster rivalry matches.
The Whitecaps have yet to defeat Cascadia opposition during the MLS era, so to pull that off for the first time in front of a massive crowd on enemy soil would surely be extra sweet.
“Playing in front of those crowds is a spectacular event and something every player dreams of,” goalkeeper Brad Knighton said on Thursday, stating the largest crowd he’s ever played at was in front of 55,000 against Manchester United in a friendly during his time with the Philadelphia Union. “But when it comes down to it, it’s 11 vs. 11 on the field.
“It’s a matter of how you perform on a particular day. It doesn’t matter who’s in the stands or how many people are at a game, but obviously it’s great for the game and great for the league that they attract crowds like that.”