Rivalry Renewed: Vancouver Whitecaps to Welcome First-Place Seattle Sounders

By Clipperton, Joshua | The Canadian Press, May 23, 2014 | Go to article overview

Rivalry Renewed: Vancouver Whitecaps to Welcome First-Place Seattle Sounders


Clipperton, Joshua, The Canadian Press


Whitecaps ready to battle 1st-place Sounders

--

VANCOUVER - Jordan Harvey didn't quite know what to make of the Vancouver Whitecaps coming into the 2014 campaign.

After a tumultuous off-season that included the team's head coach getting fired -- as well as its best player forcing his way out of town -- the defender wasn't alone.

"I had a lot of questions," Harvey said this week. "It was a young team and everything, but we acquired some really quality players. We had that first game (a 4-1 home victory over the New York Red Bulls) and the expectations were huge, but we also saw how high we could reach and the bar was set.

"I think we have the consistency, the depth to maintain that."

Nearly a third of the way through the season, those characteristics will be put to the test on Saturday when the Whitecaps (4-2-4) host the top team in Major League Soccer at B.C. Place Stadium as the Seattle Sounders (8-3-1) travel north to face their bitter geographic rivals.

"Arguably they're the best team in Major League Soccer at the moment. The league table doesn't lie," said Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson. "It's a good test for us to see where we are. It's a test that I'm looking forward to as a coach, and I know my players certainly are.

"They're a very a good team, but let me tell you, so are we."

The Whitecaps enter Saturday with 16 points through 10 games, but just one of their four wins have come against Western Conference opponents -- a trend from last season that Vancouver will have to shake if it wants to return to the playoffs after missing out in 2013.

"It's vitally important. Winning any game of football is good, but obviously every time you don't win against a Western team you're losing points and they're gaining points," said Robinson. "It's very important and we need to make sure that we compete with the Western teams and beat the Western teams. That's a big focus for us this year because we didn't do it enough last year."

The Sounders have 25 points from their 12 games, but will be without midfielder Clint Dempsey, who is away with the U.S. national team as it prepares for the World Cup in Brazil.

"It's a test for us because Seattle are where they are," said Robinson. "We've had a very positive start. We've still got a lot of work to do, a lot of improving to do, and we'll continue to do that, whatever the result on Saturday. It's just a marker for us to see where we are."

The Sounders have won five of six and are coming off a 1-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes last weekend, while the Whitecaps will have had 10 days off since bowing out of the Amway Canadian Championship semifinals to Toronto FC on May 14.

"I think it's going to be a game that's going to be a bit open," Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid told the club's official website. "They're a team that likes to counter attack and get forward, so it might open up at certain times during the game."

There's no doubt the Whitecaps have turned heads around MLS ten games into the schedule after a tricky off-season. Robinson was promoted from an assistant's role to replace former head coach Martin Rennie in December after a prolonged search, with the Welshman taking over just in time to watch star striker Camilo Sanvezzo refuse to honour the final year of his contract. …

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