Whitecaps FC need to carry their fine recent form into Sunday's Cascadia Cup showdown at Portland Timbers.VANCOUVER — In between FIFA World Cup build-up and a certain battle for Canadian club supremacy down east, Vancouver Whitecaps FC have quietly gone about their business preparing for another derby showdown this week.
As Cascadia Cup matches go, last Saturday's 2-2 draw with high-flying Seattle Sounders FC was right up there with games that fell into the category of "must see."
That same soccer logic can be applied to this Sunday night when Carl Robinson's side locks horns with its other Pacific Northwest rivals in Portland Timbers at their intimidating Providence Park home.
A trip to Portland for any club is always a daunting task, no matter what form Caleb Porter's side has been in. Of late, the Timbers have seemingly woken up from their early season slumber by claiming two straight MLS wins during this busy stretch of three league matches in just over a week.
The Whitecaps will be aware of the challenge that is front of them, despite the advantage of having a whole week to focus on this weekend's derby clash.
Sunday's game is also the first of two straight road matches that the Whitecaps will play before an extended two-and-a-half week break for World Cup group stage action in Brazil. On June 7, Vancouver visits PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania, for its lone 2014 regular season meeting versus the Philadelphia Union.
Beyond the pride of a Cascadia Cup derby clash this weekend, Robinson's side must aim for a strong finish to this promising early stage of the 2014 campaign.
There is no doubt that the Blue & White have entertained in recent weeks, with performances drawing increasing interest in Robinson's side. An interesting note considering results have not necessarily matched up with some of the 'Caps fine performances.
Yet, the challenges keep coming, and it is how this young Whitecaps squad faces those very challenges going forward. As away form goes: winning in Columbus is one thing, winning in Portland is a whole different matter entirely.
PREVIEW: Portland Timbers - Vancouver Whitecaps
The Timbers may have not had the best of starts to this fourth MLS season of theirs, but in no way should anyone consider this Sunday's game as being a three-point banker for Vancouver. The experienced Whitecaps heads will not allow for it — they have memories of what it is like to play in Portland in previous seasons.
It is easy to state that Whitecaps fans should expect more of the same in performance from their side this weekend, but that is exactly what is required. A high-tempo, high-energy game from the visitors is needed to ask questions of a potentially tired-looking Portland side trying to get through a long week at the office.
Sunday is also another opportunity for the 'Caps to put their stamp down as a side to be reckoned with in MLS this season. Vancouver's attacking speed and skill needs to show a level of potency that frightens all challengers.
It starts with turning dangerous attacks into goals – a killer instinct that would provide a justifiable end product to the way the Whitecaps have imposed themselves on the opposition so far this term.
Toronto FC and Seattle could have considered themselves fortunate to not be completely burned by the 'Caps attack recently, but other teams may not be so lucky this season. It's up to the Blue & White to show they are ruthless enough to put games to bed.
What lies in front of the 'Caps on Sunday is the next opportunity to show what they can become as an MLS contender. Add the high degree of difficulty of being away in Portland and the prize for league respect is indeed a big one for Robinson's squad this weekend.
Soccer City USA awaits…