Seattle Sounders FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps meet Friday in a match with heavy implications for both the Cascadia Cup and their Major League Soccer goals.
Fortunately, there’s no conflict for either side, as winning helps either cause.
Winning, in fact, settles the 2014 Cascadia Cup — for either team. For the Sounders, a win or a draw returns the trophy to Seattle. For the Whitecaps, a win keeps it in Vancouver.
“We’ve got a chance to lock up the Cascadia Cup — that’s what we want to do,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “That’s the second piece of silverware that we can win this year. We got the U.S. Open Cup, so now we want to get the Cascadia Cup. If we get that, that keeps us in the lead for moving forward in the Supporters Shield as well. So that’s our objective.”
Both teams also are in league races where every point could prove crucial.
For Seattle, that race is for the top of the standings. The Sounders are tied with Los Angeles in competitions for the Supporters Shield and for top seeding in the Western Conference. A win or a draw Friday would move them back alone at the top, at least for a couple of days.
“We can put pressure on the Galaxy for them to get a result on Sunday in their game with Dallas,” Schmid said. “… But more so than anything, it’s just the team sees there are three regular-season games left and (the players) can smell the goal that I think probably halfway through the season that we set for ourselves that this is achievable. When you get this close, you want to make sure you don’t let up.”
Meanwhile, the Portland Timbers turned up the pressure on the Whitecaps with a home win over San Jose on Wednesday. That moved Portland two points ahead of Vancouver for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
That race has become so intense the Timbers on Thursday tweeted out a permission slip from owner Merritt Paulson granting Portland supporters the right to root for the Sounders over the two-hour length of the game Friday.
That also makes this the rare game where the Sounders would like to do something that helps Portland — although that is not their motivation.
“We definitely want to get the three points when it comes to the Supporters Shield, but getting the Cascadia Cup for our fans would be nice, and to do it at home,” midfielder Lamar Neagle said.
“ …We feel like we just want to keep a level head and stay with what we’ve been doing all season, which is what got us to first place. But obviously to finish strong, at home we want to get all the points we can.”