VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Vancouver Whitecaps don't have to look to hard to find some motivation heading in to Wednesday's CONCACAF Champions League tie at the Seattle Sounders (10 pm ET; FS2 in US, Sportsnet One in Canada).
The Whitecaps are still licking their wounds after suffering a Cascadia Cup-losing 3-0 defeat at home to the Sounders on Saturday. Some quick revenge would help ease that pain a little, but the prime motivator at stake for Vancouver is qualification.
With a win for either side on Wednesday clinching a quarterfinal spot in the competition, the intensity level between the two rivals just got turned up a couple of more notches.
"We know that if we do win the game we're through," Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson told reporters at training this week. "If Seattle win the game, they're through, and if we tie, then Olimpia will probably want to beat us and they're through. That's what group football's about. It won't change our dynamic. It won't change our mentality. We'll go and try and win the game."
Qualifying for the knockout stages with one group game to spare would be a massive boost for Vancouver's Supporters' Shield hopes, especially since that final group game takes place in Honduras just three days before the Whitecaps' regular-season finale at home vs. the Houston Dynamo.
The ability for Vancouver to be able to commit their full attention to the MLS run-in and send a young team on the lengthy trip to face CD Olimpia would be huge.
"Of course [it helps], because make no doubt about it, that game in Honduras will be tough," Robinson admitted. "So it's a little carrot for us this Wednesday if we can go and get a result. We know it's going to be difficult."
Wednesday's game will be the fifth meeting between the two Cascadia rivals this season and there could still be more to come depending on how the playoff brackets play out. There are likely no lineup or tactical surprises left for either coach.
Results between the two teams this year have been strange. Neither side has won at home – Seattle have lost once while Vancouver have suffered two losses and a draw at BC Place – and in MLS play, neither team has scored a home goal.
It's a series that's left Robinson scratching his head, but also confident that his young side can get the job done in Seattle.
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"We know that we play well at their place," Robinson said. "I don't think you'll probably see that again in any Cascadia games next season against us, the home team not scoring and the away team winning sort of comfortably. It's bizarre. The only good thing is we've got two games against them next year away, so that's a positive I'll take."
Despite qualification being up for grabs, Robinson is set to continue to go with another young lineup, rotating out most of his MLS starters regardless of who Seattle may field in the match. Although that may surprise some on-lookers with what is at stake, the 'Caps coach has full faith in his approach and his young players' abilities.
"They've got a good strong squad and they've got depth," Robinson said of Seattle. "You look at their bench at the weekend. They're bringing [Nelson] Valdez on, international player, 68 caps. We're bringing Kianz [Froese] on who's played eight games [this season].
"That's the difference. No complaints, it's their strength. Our strength is our young players coming through, and we'll stick to that."