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The Vancouver Whitecaps play what could be one of the most important matches in their brief MLS existence against the Timbers this Sunday. Will they buckle or rise to the occasion?

VANCOUVER – It should be a match unlike any other in the brief Major League Soccer history of the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Sunday’s match against the Portland Timbers promises to have all the drama one would expect from any top flight league in a season’s final breath.

The storylines are many – can the ‘Caps become Canada’s first ever MLS Cup playoff team? Can they qualify in front of what is sure to be a rocking, sold out B.C. Place?

Or is the stage set for the Timbers to come up and upset their northern neighbours with a win that would secure them the Cascadia Cup? Even if the Whitecaps were then able to go on and qualify for the playoffs, having Portland players dance around their home stadium with some silverware while the travelling fans sing, “Our house, in the middle of B.C.,” as they have done in previous encounters would be the ultimate kick in the teeth.

The stakes have never been higher – but captain Jay DeMerit says he wouldn’t have it any other way – and even though the the Cascadia derby factor still plays into the importance of the match, right now, it’s all about getting into the postseason.

“I don’t think it can ever take a back seat because the rivalry will always be there,” DeMerit said. “But I think right now the focus is on making the playoffs. I know it’s always important to beat Portland for the fans, but for us beating Portland means we make the playoffs, so that needs to be more important.”

When asked about the significance of qualifying for the playoffs definitively with a win versus sneaking in via sixth-place FC Dallas failing to pick up points on their end, DeMerit suggested it’s the end result that matters rather the process – but the momentum a win would create would be a huge boost ahead of a potential playoff run.

“At the end of Sunday, if we’re making the playoffs, I suppose it doesn’t matter,” DeMerit said. “But, what does matter is the little things of doing it in front your home fans and that little bit of celebration or that little bit of wave you can create by doing it in front of your own fans and have everyone go home happy for the right reasons.

“Not just because we made the playoffs because Seattle won [against FC Dallas], it’s because we won and enjoyed it with our home fans and that carries into a postseason, where our fans are going to be equally important.”

Whitecaps name Forrest U-18 head coach and manager of coaching development

The coaching staff in Vancouver continues to have a Scottish flavour, as former Scottish league player Gordon Forrest will be playing a key role in the club’s youth development, heading up the club’s Under-18 and U-23 squads.

Forrest most recently worked for the Northern Football Federation as part of a national development plan in New Zealand.

In addition, the 35-year-old was an assistant coach for the New Zealand women’s national team which lost in the quarter finals in this summer’s London Olympics.

“I’m really excited about coming to an outstanding club that have a real vision and passion for developing young players,” Forrest said in a club release. “The club are making big strides in this area and I’m looking forward to becoming part of the coaching team that will continue to drive this program forward.”

Forrest has the prestigious UEFA ‘A’ Licence, in addition to the Scottish Football Association Youth Licence and the SFA’s Advanced Children’s Licence.

He played for a decade professionally, suiting up with Raith Rovers FC (Scotland), Livingston FC (Scotland), KS Leiftur (Iceland), East Fife FC (Scotland), and Berwick Rangers FC (Scotland).

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Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for Goal.com Canada.

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