From The Other Side

From The Other Side: TSN's Luke Wileman weighs in on Seattle Sounders vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC

The Seattle Sounders' quest to defend the Cascadia Cup begins on Saturday at CenturyLink Field as the Rave Green plays host to Vancouver Whitecaps FC (7 p.m. PT; Q13/KIRO 97.3 FM, El Rey 1360AM). With both teams looking to pick up their first points of 2016, an already-heated battle promises to be even more exciting. checked in with Luke Wileman of TSN to talk about the struggles both teams are currently facing and what's so special about this regional rivalry.

For both the Whitecaps and the Sounders, it's as if they've been the masters of their own downfall so far in 2016. Both have had issues where they have caused problems for themselves. In the team's first loss against Montreal, Vancouver had issues defensively and we saw rare mistakes from David Ousted and Kendell Waston who are two of their key defensive players. They had no problem keeping clean sheets in 2015, but last week they got mixed up in one of the Montreal goals. Bad decision making at times has cost the Whitecaps and you could say the same about Seattle.

Watching the first match from a distance, Seattle really controlled the first match against Sporting Kansas City but one mistake changed the course of that game.

These are two teams who certainly don't need to panic just yet. They both have the quality there that is necessary to challenge at the top of the Western Conference as both expect to this season, but they have to stop giving up goals and making mistakes that weren't around for most of last season.

Shaky 'Caps Defense?

Both Seattle and Vancouver were among the top defenses in the league in 2015 in terms of goals conceded. Ousted was tied for most clean sheets in the league. In the offseason, the 'Caps were able to lock up some key defensive players with new contracts (Waston, Ousted and Matias Laba). They're a big part of the defense and moving forward, I'm sure they'll get back onto the same page as they were last year and shore things up. 

Carl Robinson has said he wants to score more goals this year. He wants to create more going forward and that may mean they give up more goals, but certainly for the Whitecaps, they haven't found that defensive rhythm just yet.

Laba plays a massive role in that as the defensive midfielder, sitting right in the middle just in front of the back four. He hasn't hit the same form he had last season since missing some of the final days of preseason after he returned from Argentina after the birth of his first child. It seems as though he's not fully up to pace yet and he's still trying to find his legs in this season.

They have a young central defender in Tim Parker, who is in his second season in the league alongside Kendall Waston in the back. They have the pieces they need. One concern they have had so far this season is the right back position since Steven Beitashour went to Toronto FC. They filled that position earlier this season with Fraser Aird, a young Canadian international who is on loan from Glasgow Rangers in Scotland. Jordan Smith filled in last week. Neither has really grasped that they'll be the No. 1 starting right back this season and Aird will get the spot back this week since Smith was sent off last week.

Cascadian Confidence

The Whitecaps will be fairly confident coming in to CenturyLink Field despite having lost the first couple of games because they have had some really great results in Seattle the last few seasons, including a 3-0 win last fall. That's the last time the 'Caps won away from home in the regular season. First and foremost, they need to make sure they're tight defensively and that they do not cause themselves trouble by giving the ball away cheaply.

They might be looking at a change in formation change in this weekend's match because they have some players missing. They will be missing midfielder Kianz Froese due to suspension and Christian Bolaños, a Costa Rican international, will be back from suspension and will fit in somewhere. I'm thinking Carl Robinson may want to change things up in terms of his formation to try to make sure they're not only more defensively solid, but that they can cause a few more problems for the Sounders. When they're on the road, Octavio Rivero can get a bit set apart and service isn't always the best to him. They might put Blas Pérez up there and play with two strikers up top.

He's so experienced in this league. Opposing fans don't like him because he knows how to get under a team's skin, but he brings that bit of nastiness, knowledge and drive that you might need if you're a team that has lost its first two matches and is now facing the Sounders. These teams shouldn't feel desperate, but neither wants to let this go one any longer. Both want to get their first points of the season.

A Rivalry Unlike Any Other

With my job at TSN, I get to travel across North America watching games in so many different cities across the United States and Canada with different teams involved, and sometimes I think we don't realize just how lucky we are to be involved with the Pacific Northwest rivalry and to have an opportunity where there are three teams so closed together. With the cities close together, you have the opportunity to drive just a few hours down the road and have the fans create a great atmosphere and you have massive crowds and games that are always a roller coaster of emotion both on and off the pitch.

That's what Major League Soccer needs more of. With the Whitecaps, the Timbers and the Sounders, it works to perfection in the Pacific Northwest. We're really lucky with what we have right now and it's great to see the supporters buy in and see them enjoy traveling for these matches. The rivalry, while sometimes tense, really is a celebration of soccer in this region and it's great to see.

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