VANCOUVER, B.C. — Seattle Sounders FC goalkeeper Stefan Frei has played against the Vancouver Whitecaps before, but not as part of the Cascadia Cup.
Frei is expected to get his second taste of that Northwest round-robin at 4 p.m. Saturday, when the Sounders visit BC Place for a Major League Soccer Western Conference match.
The Whitecaps were, however, a top rival of the team Frei played for over the previous five seasons: Toronto FC.
“Vancouver was the first (Canadian) team to join MLS after Toronto, so definitely a bit of a rivalry there until Montreal joined,” Frei said. “Montreal and Toronto are a bit bigger. They don’t like each other very much. But there’s always pride at stake, especially in the Canadian Cup. Always big games, for sure.”
Frei got his first taste of Cascadia Cup action last month, when the Sounders visited Portland and came from behind for a wild 4-4 draw.
The intensity of that match topped anything Frei experienced in the Canadian derbies.
“I’d say it’s even bigger,” he said. “Maybe a bit more history there. You can definitely feel that there’s no love between the teams, and the fans as well. It’s a big game for us because it’s in conference as well. With Toronto, when you play against Vancouver, it’s a different conference. It was a big game, obviously, but the in-conference games are always huge: Those are six-point games, and so it’s a big one for us.”
This is Vancouver’s first Cascadia Cup match of the season, as they set out to defend the championship they won in 2013.
The Whitecaps are fourth in the West at 4-2-4. They are 3-1-1 at home and are unbeaten over their past four matches overall.
“They’ve gotten off to a good start,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “They’ve entrusted their forward line to a lot of their young players. They’ve got a lot of speed up front. They’re really dangerous on the counterattack. They’ve played really well at home so far. So it’s going to be a tough game for us.”
The Whitecaps are surging despite the loss of two of their highest-profile attackers: Camilo Sanvezzo, who transferred to Queretaro FC during the offseason for a multimillion-dollar fee; and Kenny Miller, whose contract was terminated May 4 in what was called a mutual agreement with the club.
Schmid says he is not surprised by how well the Whitecaps have survived the departures because of the quality remaining on the roster.
“(Kekuta) Manneh is a very talented player,” Schmid said. “(Erik) Hurtado has come on and played well. (Darren) Mattocks has been in and out with his injury, but he’s another guy. Those guys just strike fear into you, just with their speed and what they can do. And with the addition of (Pedro) Morales and the addition of (Sebastian) Fernandez, I’m sure Camilo wishes he were there now with those guys behind him.”
SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC (8-3-1; 25 POINTS)
AT VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC (4-2-4; 16 POINTS)
4 P.M., BC PLACE, VANCOUVER, B.C.
TV: JOEtv. Radio: 97.3-FM.
HEAD TO HEAD: Seattle leads 3-2-3 in Major League Soccer play, and 63-48-21 through all leagues and competitions dating to the North American Soccer League in 1974. The clubs will meet again July 5 in Vancouver and Oct. 10 in Seattle.
NOTES: This is the first Cascadia Cup competition of 2014 for the defending champion Whitecaps. The Sounders began Cascadia Cup play last month with a draw at Portland. … Seattle has the best record in MLS. The Whitecaps rank fourth in the Western Conference. … Seattle’s Obafemi Martins leads MLS with six assists. … Pedro Morales and Kekuta Manneh lead Vancouver with three goals each. … Seattle will be without goals leader Clint Dempsey and right back DeAndre Yedlin because of national team duty. Brad Evans returned from national team camp in time to train with the Sounders on Friday, but his status for this match was undetermined. Two Vancouver players are away on international duty: Steven Beitashour (Iran) and Bryce Alderson (Canada). … The referee is Ismail Elfath.
QUOTABLE: “It’s going to be a game that’s a little bit open because (the Whitecaps) like to counterattack and they like to get forward. If they do get forward on us in a counterattacking situation, we’re a team that’s also not afraid to counterattack and go the other way, so it might open up at times in the game.” — Sounders coach Sigi Schmid
NEXT: 1 p.m. May 31, Real Salt Lake at Seattle, CenturyLink Field.Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt firstname.lastname@example.org