Build a Bonfire, Build a Bonfire

Sounders meet with Whitecaps for first derby of the season

Time – 2 p.m.
Date – May 19, 2012
Location – BC Place, Vancouver

In their shortest road trip of the campaign to date, Seattle Sounders FC took the three hour trek across the border to the great white north to face the Vancouver Whitecaps this afternoon.

The match will be the first leg of of the season-long three-team Cascadia Derby between the two sides and the Portland Timbers. Today will also mark the Sounders first trip to BC Place, Vancouver’s new complex built for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Here are three things to watch for in today’s highly-anticipated tie between the sides.

1. Stopping “The French Connection”

Sebastien Le Toux and Eric Hassli when on their games are one of the most formidable strike partnerships in the MLS. The problem for Vancouver though has been getting them going at the same time.

Off to their best start in their two-year MLS history, Vancouver is led by a high octane offense and the knowledge and connections made between these two players are the main reason for it.

Expect to see Le Toux to take a more withdrawn role as an attacking right midfielder today, but still looking to both attack the box with the tenacity of a striker and find Hassli in dangerous areas.

2. The fearsome foursome

For the first time this season, forwards Fredy Montero and Eddie Johnson, along with midfielders Mauro Rosales and Alvaro Fernandez are all healthy and at manager Sigi Schmidt’s disposal.

Although starting goalkeeper Michael Gspurning is still doubtful with a right hip injury, this is the closest the Rave Green will come all year to full attacking strength without injured winger Steve Zakuani.

Look for a little bit of rust in touch between the four attack minded players, but still a lot of the skill that fans have come to know and love.

3. Can anyone take the cup from Seattle?

Seattle won last season’s supporter-created Cascadia Cup easily over Vancouver and Portland, but due to the new unbalanced schedule in the MLS, the sides will play each other three times instead of two like last year, leaving Seattle to play four derby matches on the road and only two in the friendly confines of CenturyLink Field.

Winning and home and drawing on the road, the tradition cup strategy, may not be good enough for the Sounders this season with the additional road matches, so it will be important to challenge in matches like today’s and search for three points on the road.

PREDICTION – Seattle is coming off a heart-wrenching loss last weekend at home against Real Salt Lake, but are still lead the MLS in points per game and have the fewest goals allowed. If center backs Jeff Parke and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado are able to protect the space in front of keeper Bryan Meredith. Also look for defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso to mark players like Le Toux and the speedy Camilo tightly all match long.

In the end Sounders fans will see that this is a different Vancouver team than last year – these guys are good. I think Seattle has the ability to win this one, but I see a draw being a viable option. Seattle gets the three points in a 2-1 victory.