There's not nearly as much fanfare surrounding the Seattle Sounders second home Cascadia Cup match against the Vancouver Whitecaps. If the emotion of the Sounders much more intense rivalry with the Portland Timbers is removed from the equation however, there's a case to be made that the outcome of tonight's game is even more important than the one against Seattle's bitter enemies to the south. With the positive feelings from the Sounders ending Real Salt Lake's 29 game home unbeaten streak largely deflated by a drab 0-0 draw against the Chicago Fire, the Sounders will be desperate to try and regain some positive momentum.
The good news for Seattle is that the Whitecaps might be the best team in MLS to be facing when in need of a boost; Vancouver currently sit at the very bottom of the Western Conference table and ahead of only Sporting Kansas City in terms of the worst record in MLS without the handy of excuse of only having played one road game. Vancouver's defense is a disaster, having allowed 20 goals on the year which puts them even with DC United for next-to-worst in the league. Their attack hasn't inspired a whole lot more confidence as they've managed only 14 goals on the year with just 3 of those coming on the road. What's more, the Whitecaps haven't scored more than one goal in a league game since April 2nd. This just isn't an especially good or dangerous Whitecaps team the Sounders are facing.
To put it bluntly, the Sounders not only need a victory from this game, it needs to be of a decisive nature. Despite their struggles, Seattle still sit fairly close to the top of the table where points alone are concerned, but this team is very desperately crying out for a dominant performance, the likes of which has not been seen since the last time a Canadian team visited Qwest Field. With the transfer window opening in a month's time and the Sounders with an open DP slot and money to burn, if they can stay towards the top they're still, somewhat miraculously given their injury troubles, within reach of contention for a very favorable playoff slot. But at a certain point, for the Sounders to be taken seriously as an elite team, they need to look like the far superior team on their home pitch.
Seattle's home record this season isn't poor, but it's certainly far from dominant. Injuries or Vancouver is a side that the Sounders should be able to take care of with relative ease and anything less than three points should lead to some very serious questions. Fredy Montero should rightfully be the focal point on the build-up; if he's starting (which will likely be the case) then his recent relegation to the substitute's bench was a motivational tool. If he sits, then Sigi seems to think the team functions better without him, in which case oh god help us please. Fortunately, I think it's a fair bet we'll see Fredy tomorrow. The Sounders will likely be in the narrow 4<4>2 once again, and while it's a bit negative it makes a fair amount of logical sense and has been responsible for Seattle's only outing of the season that has involved more than three goals.
It's one Seattle should win. That much should be evident. But even in that occasion, negative lessons might be learned. And if they take fewer than three? Serious questions will need to be asked, because the Sounders will start to look very much like a team well off the pace of the league's front runners.