The Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps FC last crossed paths on May 19 and much has changed in both camps in the three months since.
In Seattle, the Sounders were set to start their attacking foursome of Eddie Johnson, Fredy Montero, Mauro Rosales and Alvaro Fernandez for the first time in the first meeting between the two clubs. This time around, the story is similar, with Johnson, Montero and Rosales now joined by German midfielder Christian Tiffert. Mario Martinez also joined the team on Friday and goalkeeper Michael Gspurning is back from a hip injury that kept him out of the match in May. Now with four games under his belt, he has added a new presence on the defensive side of the ball that wasn’t there in his absence.
“Christian’s settled into the team very well,” said Seattle midfielder Andy Rose. “After a few days of training, I’m sure he’ll be ready to go on Saturday.”
For ‘Caps, the lineup will be virtually unrecognizable from the one that head coach Martin Rennie trotted out in the 2-2 draw at BC Place in May.
Center back Martin Bonjour is out because of yellow card accumulation and Jay DeMerit, his partner in May, suffered a concussion last week and is not likely to feature so soon after for the Whitecaps FC. Midfielder Davide Chiumiento had two goals and 14 assists in 42 matches for Vancouver, but was transferred to FC Zurich in his native Switzerland in July. At forward, Sebastien Le Toux was traded to the New York Red Bulls for Dane Richards and Omar Salgado is out with a fractured foot.
In total, five of the starters from Vancouver’s first meeting with Seattle are not expected to be available on Saturday. Even top striker from 2011 Eric Hassli has since been traded to Toronto FC.
That would normally leave plenty of holes in the lineup, but the Whitecaps have had a recent influx of talent that has upgraded their roster in many ways.
Former Newcastle United and Bolton Wanderers center back Andy O’Brien made his first MLS start in a 2-0 loss to FC Dallas on Wednesday and could reprise that starting role on Saturday. As could forward Kenny Miller, who also made his first start on Wednesday after three prior appearances off the bench. In the midfield, they now have Barry Robson pulling the strings and also just added Brazilian Tiago Ulisses.
Richards was joined by rookie standout Darren Mattocks in the Jamaican National Team for their midweek friendly against El Salvador. Both were used as subs in Jamaica’s 2-0 win at RFK Stadium, so both should be ready for the derby match on Saturday.
“They’ve definitely tried to give themselves more speed options up front,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “They’re a team that’s built to counter and a little bit more built on their team speed than they were before.”
Mattocks, for one, is a much different player than the one that Seattle faced earlier this year. Though credited with just three shots in his first MLS start, each was a solid goal-scoring chance that proved too big of a moment for the 21-year-old Akron product. Since then, he has exploded for seven goals in 11 matches to lead the Whitecaps FC and take the league-wide rookie lead.The Sounders will look to get back into the race for the Cascadia Cup on Saturday, where they currently sit third among the three northwest rivals. But they’ll also look to jump ahead of the Whitecaps FC and LA Galaxy in the Western Conference standings. They are currently tied for third with both teams with 37 points, though the Sounders have two games in hand on the Whitecaps and three games on the Galaxy.