Vancouver versus Seattle clashes are never short on drama or excitement, and Saturday's match at BC Place looks to build on that trend.VANCOUVER — Three weeks today, soccer's showpiece event begins in Brazil. If you ask soccer fans right now, many would admit they can hardly wait for the action to begin at this year's FIFA World Cup.
It is the type of wait that can make some soccer enthusiasts feel starved for action, with several soccer seasons having concluded in recent weeks, especially in Europe.
Sure, there is Saturday's historic UEFA Champions League final between Spanish capital rivals Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid to satisfy the palate, but in many ways, the calm before the start of a major soccer competition (World Cup, European Championship, Copa America, etc.) can be the most excruciating for soccer fans. How does one fill the void?
If you are a soccer fan that is enduring such temporary levels of anxiety in the Pacific Northwest (…or anywhere in the world, for that matter…), may I suggest a remedy that offers the perfect bridge to the party in Brazil early next month. It's called The Cascadia Cup!
On Saturday afternoon at BC Place, Vancouver Whitecaps FC embark on their defence of the fan-based trophy when they host Interstate 5 rivals Seattle Sounders FC in one of the most highly anticipated derby clashes of any MLS season. That is followed by Vancouver's trip to The Rose City to face Portland Timbers at the intimidating confines of Providence Park a week from Sunday (June 1).
Like two years ago, Vancouver and Seattle will battle for regional bragging rights following a UEFA Champions League final. If Saturday's game is anything like what was seen between these two clubs on May 19, 2012, then those in attendance at BC Place this weekend are in for a real treat.
There is plenty to anticipate with this latest derby clash. Both the Whitecaps and Sounders come into the game in fine form, with Seattle occupying the MLS Western Conference summit after winning six of its last seven league matches. Vancouver, meanwhile, will be refreshed from a 10-day break between games and looking to make inroads on the frontrunners in the West by extending its four-match unbeaten run in MLS.
Saturday's match-up also offers some interesting storylines. Sigi Schmid's Sounders will be without Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin, as the pair is in camp with Jurgen Klinsmann's United States World Cup squad. There's no word on whether Brad Evans, a late cut from Klinsmann's roster, will join his club for this match.
As such, the focus with Seattle will likely be on a player that was overlooked for a trip to Brazil by his native Nigeria - in-form striker Obafemi Martins. The West African's performances of late will have 'Caps head coach Carl Robinson figuring out a way to shut down Martins and his link-up attacking play with goal-happy Lamar Neagle and experienced target man Kenny Cooper.
As for Schmid, he will be considering ways to stop Vancouver's speed and flowing attack play on the BC Place turf, with Whitecaps FC keen to build on the way they attacked the likes of San Jose Earthquakes and Toronto FC in their last two home games.
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There is also the factor of a certain Omar Salgado to add to the intrigue of this contest. It was in the same fixture two years ago that the young 'Caps striker arguably put in his best performance in MLS before a broken foot sidetracked his fledging career until now. Could we see a repeat of those same efforts from him this weekend?
It is sure to be a match full of drama and excitement, particularly when you consider the level of intensity that Vancouver versus Seattle games have had since they renewed this rivalry on the MLS stage back in 2011. For the Sounders, a first win at BC Place and a further stranglehold on top spot in the West will be the visitors' focus. For the Whitecaps, Saturday provides the latest opportunity to see how Robinson's young side can measure up against the elite of MLS.
With a healthy dose of travelling "Rave Green" support coming up from Washington State to add to the atmosphere in downtown Vancouver this weekend, local lovers of "The Beautiful Game" should find this Cascadia Cup appetizer to be most satisfying ahead of the World Cup main course that we will all be feasting on by June 12.
Forget the three-week World Cup wait, Saturday afternoon at BC Place already feels so close…and yet so far away…