Vancouver Whitecaps FC continues defense of their Cascadia Cup championship from last season when they hit the road to meet pacific division rival Portland Timbers, Sunday evening in tough surroundings. It will be the Caps second straight game in the three team darby after settling for a 2-2 draw against Seattle Sounders FC last Saturday at BC Place to open the tournament.
Whitecaps FC will not only be battling the Timbers but also the rabid Timbers army faithful that help make up the best home field advantage in the MLS at quaint Providence park where the hosts are unbeaten in 21 straight games. Caps captain Jay DeMerit says he thinks the squad has the fortitude to relish the challenge in the most hostile road environment in the league. “Anytime you have energy in the stadium it’s a positive thing and they’re a good loud and boisterous crowd so as opponents you expect jarring, you expect noise but again if you can’t deal with that stuff you’re in the wrong game. It’s about challenging yourself and your team in the toughest environment and Portland certainly gives you that.”
The Timbers have uncharacteristically struggled to begin the season currently occupying eighth spot in the Western Conference standings with just 2 wins (2W-3L-7D) and 13 points through 12 games played. It is a long season however and even with their rocky start they still just sit four points behind Whitecaps FC (4W-2L-5D) who sit in fifth spot out west on the strength of 17 points through 11 games played. The one constant bright spot that the Timbers have always been able to rely upon is their passionate and loud fan base that seemingly sit right on top of the field and they’ll no doubt let their voices be heard and make the atmosphere as unwelcoming as possible to the visitors on Sunday night.
Whitecaps FC have enjoyed a good run of form of late going unbeaten in their last five straight games (2w-3D) and hope to reverse a trend of not finishing seemingly easy scoring chances early in games that end up resulting in leaving valuable points on the pitch. In fact it’s the issue with burying their chances has been a little confusing because the Caps have enjoyed scoring their fare share of highlight reel goals this season. A fact backed up by eight of their 18 total goals scored this season being nominated for MLS goal of the week. But at the same time it’s their lack of finish especially early in contests that has come back to haunt them on numerous occasions, turning sure three-point victories into one-point draws. Nigel Reo-Coker will see his second straight MLS start at right back and says they need to convert on the odd ugly goal to make life easier on them. “I think something we need to do better is close out games and that’s something that we have to be honest with ourselves, we’ve had discussions in the dressing room about that. We’ve had so many chances where the game could have been put to bed in the first 20 or 30 minutes and it’s only a matter of time now where we end up winning a game four or five- nil.”
Whitecaps are expected to have a very similar line up to how they started last weekend’s 2-2 draw with Seattle which means Erik Hurtado will start at striker, looking to score in his fourth straight competition. Fellow striker Darren Mattocks is not available as he’s on international duty representing his home country of Jamaica. Meanwhile regular right back Steven Beitashour will miss his second straight game, also due to international duty playing for Iran ahead of the next month’s World Cup.
Kickoff on Sunday evening goes just after 6:00 pm PT.