Tricky Vancouver squad next up for first place Sounders

Sounders FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC

MLS Regular Season
Saturday, May 24; 4 pm PT; BC Place
TV/Radio: JoeTV (KZJO channel 22/cable 10); KIRO Radio 97.3 FM; THIS-TV, KOMO2 (Spanish); ESPN Deportes Radio, 1490 AM (Spanish)

While Sounders FC and Real Salt Lake have made headlines with their starts to their 2014 seasons, Vancouver Whitecaps FC has quietly stayed close behind the two Western Conference frontrunners at 4-2-4. Under the guidance of Head Coach Carl Robinson, a youthful Whitecaps attack has fueled a hot start, remaking the roster after the losses of offensive weapons Camilo Sanvezzo and Kenny Miller.

"They've entrusted their forward line to a lot of their young players and they've got a lot of speed up front," Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. "They're really dangerous on the counter attack and they've played well at home, so far, so it's going to be a tough game for us, but it's a game we'll be ready for."

Using their success in the MLS SuperDraft, where they nabbed Darren Mattocks, Kekutah Manneh and Erik Hurtado, as well as international signings Pedro Morales and Sebastian Fernandez, Vancouver has created a volatile attack based around the speed of its forwards.

Seattle knows of that speed all too well. After holding him scoreless in three matches his rookie season, Seattle was bested by Mattocks in his one appearance against the Sounders in 2013, scoring quickly after entering the July 6 match in the 76th minute to secure a 2-0 win. In their final meeting in Seattle in October, Manneh blazed past the Sounders FC defense and netted his first professional hat trick in a 4-1 Vancouver win.

That game at CenturyLink Field has been a focal point as Seattle prepares to meet the Whitecaps for the first time this season, and the Sounders are acutely aware of the explosive speed of Vancouver's forwards.

"Manneh got behind us. We were a little bit slow reacting and I know the guys who were involved in that game are all aware and they will all be alert in this game," Schmid said.

Vancouver is 3-1-1 at BC Place this season and, while a recent 5-0 defeat at the New England Revolution still lingers for Seattle, Sounders FC has shown to be among the best road teams in MLS, going 3-1-1 away from home.

Seattle cleaned up its woes with a 1-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes at CenturyLink Field last week, renewing the confidence that has propelled Seattle to the front of the Supporters' Shield race at 8-3-1.

"It's a different game when you play away. You have to be smart and be mentally prepared for what is coming. You have to learn from things like that," Sounders FC midfielder Marco Pappa said. "We have done that in the past and it was a good game last week. We are getting into a rhythm and we're playing with more confidence. We have good players, so we trust in the group. We will have to go with a lot of energy to Vancouver."

Kickoff is schedule for 4 pm PT with television coverage on JoeTV (KZJO channel 22/cable 10).