After trips to Chicago and Orlando, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (2W-1L-0D) return to BC Place this weekend to kick off their defence of the Cascadia Cup against rival Portland Timbers (0W-0L-3D), and look for their third straight win.
Match Day: Saturday, March 28
Kickoff: 5 p.m. PT
Venue: BC Place
TV: TSN 1
Radio: TSN 1410
Here are three storylines to get you set for Saturday’s match.
1. Squad depth
“We’re down to the bare bones,” Carl Robinson said at training this week. “The majority of the squad will be used this weekend.”
He’s not wrong.
In fact, a number of first-team regulars will be unavailable this weekend due to a mixture of injury, suspension and international call-ups. On the injury front, Mauro Rosales is still recuperating after his ankle injury in Chicago and Sam Adekugbe could be sidelined as well after his collision with Orlando goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
Elsewhere Russell Teibert, Darren Mattocks and Christian Dean have been called up for international duty while Kekuta Manneh and Diego Rodriguez will serve suspensions due to their infractions in Orlando.
“I’ve got a number of players missing,” Robinson said on Thursday, “but I’ve got confidence in my group.”
That group will be stretched thin on Saturday, but the absence of so many players gives opportunities to the likes of Kianz Froese, Erik Hurtado, and new signing Robert Earnshaw to impress against the Timbers.
2. Cascadia clash
Whitecaps FC are the most successful team in Cascadia Cup history and after back-to-back wins the five-time champs will be looking to defend the trophy again in 2015. They begin their defence on Saturday against Portland, a team who’ve given the ‘Caps a headache or two during their time in MLS.
If their hotly contested preseason encounter is anything to go by, both teams are in for a battle at BC Place on Saturday.
“With every game we’ve played against Portland it’s a physical battle,” Robinson said. “They’re a very good team, they’ve got a very good manager … we expect a battle and we’ve got to deal with that physically and then we’ve also go to try and put our stamp on the game when we’re in possession of the ball.”
The sellout crowd will play an important role for Saturday’s derby and the squad are eager to repay the fans after their opening day defeat against Toronto.
“It’s going to be a great atmosphere,” Erik Hurtado told whitecapsfc.com. “It’s a rivalry, so when the fans come here [to BC Place] and when they’re screaming and yelling even more than regular games, it just makes you go out there and try much harder.”
3. Rivero streak
Can he kick it? Yes he can!
Octavio Rivero continued his sensational start to the season against Orlando last Saturday with a 96th-minute header that broke the deadlock and secured a valuable three points for the ‘Caps. The header itself was a thing of beauty and after strikes with his left and his right against Toronto and Chicago respectively, the striker has quickly showcased his ability to score a variety of different goals.
The scary thing, for opposition fans at least, is that the coaching staff think that Rivero’s best is yet to come.
“He can get better,” Robinson said of the Uruguayan. “He’s started off very well but there’s definitely more room for improvement.”
Rivero himself is just looking forward to getting back on the pitch at BC Place. As CTV found out when they sat down with him and his girlfriend Maria earlier this week, the 23-year-old has been settling into life in Vancouver well since signing for the club during the offseason. He’s especially looking forward to playing in front of a home crowd at BC Place, which he says already feels like home.
“I like the stadium,” he told reporters. “I like the people, when the stadium is full I have energy…”
With a sellout crowd on hand for this Saturday’s Cascadia clash there will be no shortage of that. The question on everyone’s lips, however, will be whether the ‘Caps number 29 can make it four goals in four games.