For the first time this season, all three Pacific Northwest clubs are in decent form, and it comes in a period where they're meeting each other.With just 180 minutes played in the 2014 Cascadia Cup, we've already seen 12 goals, and some quite remarkable, but none of the highly-sought "game-winning" variety. After two games, Seattle is on top by virtue of simply having been involved in both of the matches so far.
We've already covered that 10 points is the magic number for claiming bragging rights, but with nobody yet to actually win a game, two points and six goals on the road have the Sounders in a good position.
That could all change on Sunday when the Vancouver Whitecaps visit Providence Park. Portland, which for two months had snickering Sounders fans thumbing their thesauruses to make terrible puns about draws, stopped the rot and turned a long road trip into a week-long bi-coastal points raid, beating the New York Red Bulls and Chivas USA in the space of five days. The once-bottom Timbers have rocketed up three spots in the standings and haven't lost since April 19, a run of six games. They've improved and newly-signed Fenando Adi has been an instant smash hit.
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The erratic nature of Major League Soccer scheduling means that the Timbers have benefitted from playing more games than most of their playoff rivals, and their 1.23 points per game haul is actually pretty feeble. But those points are already in the bag, while the likes of LA, Vancouver and San Jose will be under pressure to maintain form and avoid slipping.
Form is not much of an issue for the Whitecaps right now. They've gone undefeated for six weeks and five games, winning twice and drawing against a trio of tough opponents in LA, Real Salt Lake and Seattle. Their 1.55 ppg is third best in the West and with two games in hand over the Timbers, are still a point ahead.
Sunday's match will thus be a big game for two sporting reasons in addition to the usual PNW chest-beating. The winner, if there is one, takes control of the Cascadia Cup table, and connects a body blow in the playoff fight. With Vancouver's one-point advantage and pair of games in hand, the Whitecaps can afford to play it safe and be content if they end up with a point on the road. The Timbers are fighting for every scrap of momentum, and must risk everything
Portland — Previously in this space, we've said that in MLS, a good month or two could launch the Timbers back into the playoff spots. It might happen even sooner than that if they keep up this pace. After a long slog where it seemed like nothing was coming up right, it just seemed to click. Portland wasn't that impressive in New York, but Maximiliano Urruti scored twice to bring his team back in it. The game against Chivas was a crime against the sport, but Adi got free twice and finished some good passes. Maybe Caleb Porter has been right all along.
Coming up: The Timbers host the Whitecaps, as has been discussed. Sunday, June 1, 6 p.m. PT - MLS LIVE.
Seattle — The Sounders had no business sneaking back across the border with a point in the bag, but they did, overcoming Stefan Frei's horrendous error and Erik Hurtado's ankle-breaking goal after Chad Barrett's opener with the softest penalty you've ever seen on Jay DeMerit.
Coming up: The two best teams in MLS come together for control of the Supporters' Shield race as Real Salt Lake visits CenturyLink Field. Saturday, May 31, 1 p.m. PT - MLS LIVE.
Vancouver — Erik Hurtado only scores beautiful goals. He started with a fantastic finish against the Columbus Crew, and then dropped this nasty fakeout on the Sounders. If you're Caleb Porter, do you show Diego Chara footage of what Hurtado did to Osvaldo Alonso, or do you let him sleep through the night?
Coming up: It's hardly been mentioned, but the 'Caps nip down to Oregon to play the Portland Timbers. Sunday, June 1, 6 p.m. PT - MLS LIVE.
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