Tyrone Mears 150515
Joe Nicholson

Three Key Match-Ups: at Vancouver Whitecaps FC

On Saturday, Sounders FC clashes with Cascadia rival Vancouver Whitecaps FC at BC Place, where Seattle has yet to earn a victory in MLS play. With its first such win, the Rave Green would jump into first place in the 2015 Cascadia Cup standings.

This game features two of the best defensive teams in MLS so far this season and some of the league’s most dynamic goal-scorers. Here are three matchups to watch in Saturday’s fixture.

Clint Dempsey vs. Matias Laba

Dempsey will likely be playing without fellow striker Obafemi Martins, who was held out of the last two training sessions because of a leg injury. It would be the first time this season Dempsey has been on the pitch without Martins. That could present a challenge for Deuce, who is tied for first in MLS with seven goals and tied for fourth with four assists. Laba is one of Vancouver’s central defensive midfielders that will aim to keep the Sounders attack in check on Saturday. In his third MLS season, Laba has started 10 of 11 games for Whitecaps FC.

Osvaldo Alonso vs. Pedro Morales

Just as Laba will be tasked with helping contain Dempsey, Alonso could play a major role in Saturday’s contest lining up against Morales, the captain and leading assist man for Vancouver. Coming off a stellar season of 10 goals and 12 assists, Morales is lighting it up once again this year. The Chilean midfielder’s playmaking ability is a main reason why teammate Octavio Rivero has scored six goals and Whitecaps FC is atop the Western Conference standings. Morales was named to the MLS Team of the Week for recording a goal and assist in last Saturday’s 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Union.

Tyrone Mears vs. Kekuta Manneh

Manneh scored the game-winner in the Cascadia Cup-deciding match last season and recorded a hat trick against Seattle in October of 2013. With former Sounder Mauro Rosales potentially out of the lineup due to a quad injury, the 20-year-old winger will more than likely be in the Whitecaps’ starting XI on Saturday. Manneh has been inconsistent this season – scoring just once on 23 shots – while Mears has been one of the Sounders’ most consistent players in his first MLS campaign.