Seattle plays the first of three league matches against the Vancouver Whitecaps Saturday in a match between teams equally anxious to gain seasonal traction.
The Seattle Sounders will open the 2016 Cascadia Cup at home against the Vancouver Whitecaps Saturday (7 p.m., Q13 FOX). The past season, the Cup was Seattle’s lone addition to its trophy collection, and Seattle will be eager to use the match to generate some momentum against a familiar foe.
The Sounders played Vancouver in consecutive matches twice last season, once in August and again in September, thanks to their billing in the Western Conference and their draw into the same group in the CONCACAF Champions League (the Whitecaps earned Canada’s lone slot in the tournament in 2015). Over the course of five matches against Vancouver, Seattle was 3-1-1 with a plus-five goal differential.
Of course, that was then. In a fresh MLS season, both teams seek their first win, and hope to avoid the dreaded three-loss start. The Whitecaps have lost games to the Montreal Impact and Sporting Kansas City, who also defeated Seattle in the first week of the regular season.
Coach Sigi Schmid emphasized Thursday that desperation was not a factor.
“It’s early days,” he said. “We’ve been disappointed in our first two weeks because we think we’ve played reasonably well.”
Consistency has been elusive, and won’t be helped without Erik Friberg, who sprained his MCL in a loss to Real Salt Lake Saturday. Also questionable is Brad Evans, who dislocated his shoulder against Sporting Kansas City.
Likely to start in their places will be second-year midfielder Cristian Roldan and 35-year-old Zach Scott, respectively. The former, while faster than Friberg, lacks the Swede’s experience and vision. The latter, while a longtime club veteran, is vulnerable to the type of quick counter attacks that Vancouver prefers.
There is good news for the defense in the return of keeper Stefan Frei, a late scratch from the lineup in the loss to Sporting Kansas City, which forced backup Tyler Miller into net on his 23rrd birthday. A small, loose chip of bone had swollen Frei’s elbow prior to the match, but he said Thursday that the problem was resolved and he didn’t expect to be further troubled.
The offense seeks to connect the phone lines between Clint Dempsey and rookie Jordan Morris.
Dempsey attributed the early miscues between the two as a combination of unfamiliarity and difference in style.
“We’re trying to figure each other out and how we play,” said Dempsey. “I’m more the style that likes to link up with people give-and-go, and he’s more of a runner, getting behind the line. (We’re) just mixing it up, and that’s getting on the same page and finding each other. But we haven’t had many games together . . . he’s got a bright future.”