The Seattle Sounders still find themselves in the playoff race after two consecutive wins, but now face a tough challenge in Vancouver against Cascadia rivals the Whitecaps.
The Sounders managed to keep their playoff chances alive last weekend, courtesy of a convincing and impressive 3-0 win versus Austin FC. Yes, they're still four points out of seventh place, but they do have a game in hand on RSL, who currently holds this position.
The reason for the slight improvement in Seattle's situation comes down to several midweek results, including Vancouver's win versus the LA Galaxy. Now, the Sounders will aim to 'thank' them, by winning on Saturday night.
To achieve this, the Sounders will have to do something they've yet to manage this season - win three consecutive games. Throw in the fact this is a rivalry game -- albeit the Portland Timbers have already won this year's Cascadia Cup -- and it will be an intriguing game.
In this respect, the Whitecaps would enjoy nothing more than playing the role of spoiler, especially given they are all but out of the playoff picture. Here are 10 things to know ahead of the game at BC Place:
Seattle Sounders: A strong advantage
1) The Sounders have a strong advantage in the all-time MLS head-to-head meetings versus the Whitecaps, with 18 wins, 10 draws and just seven losses in 35 games. This includes a dominating 4-0 victory back in June, which is their biggest win of the season to date.
2) The 4-0 win in Seattle earlier this season was notable for two goals by Raul Ruidiaz. In this respect, he has scored eight times in total versus Vancouver, which is the third-most all-time against them in MLS. (Chris Wondolowski leads the way with 14 goals against the Whitecaps.)
3) Still on the subject of Ruidiaz, he has come into form at just the right time after enduring an injury-hit campaign. He has scored three times in the last three games and now leads the Sounders with nine league goals.
Seattle Sounders: A potential MLS record
4) On Saturday, the Sounders can equal the all-time MLS record for most consecutive games without a defeat against one team (including playoffs). The Rave Green have gone 15 straight fixtures without losing to the Blue-and-White.
5) Vancouver has struggled to score this season, with their 36 league goals tied for the fewest in the Western Conference. The majority of their scoring has come from Lucas Cavallini and Ryan Gauld, with eight and seven goals respectively.
6) As much as the Whitecaps struggle to score, they have a strong 8-4-3 record at home this season. Contrast this to the Sounders' road record of 3-10-2, which is one of the poorest in the Western Conference.
Seattle Sounders: Absences
7) In terms of injuries, there is some hope that Cristian Roldan will be back in time from his groin surgery to play in the final two regular season games. Elsewhere, Joao Paulo is gone for the year due to a right ACL tear, while Obed Vargas is also unlikely to return in 2022 after a lower back stress fracture.
8) While it won't impact the game in Vancouver, Jordan Morris' call-up to the U.S. Men's National Team is something to keep an eye on. Due to the dates of the two friendlies, Morris will probably miss the Sounders' game on Sept. 27 at home to FC Cincinnati.
9) Speaking to the media on Wednesday, head coach Brian Schmetzer was asked about the added intensity in rivalry games. He said:
"Rivalry games are always good. They add a little juice. Certainly Portland would be a little bit bigger, (for example) when we won the Cascadia Cup there last year. That was good and spiced the game up a little bit. The Whitecaps are a proud franchise. They've been around a long time. They'll always be competitive."
10) Also speaking to the media on Wednesday, Albert Rusnak was asked about focusing on Vancouver versus the temptation of looking ahead. He said:
"It's one game at a time. If we don't win at Vancouver, maybe those next three games don't matter. Maybe the results will go the way that we will be 90 percent out of the playoffs, so I don't think anybody is looking past the Vancouver game. It's all focus on that. We still have a couple more days to prepare, maybe watch some film, and then find ways to beat them. I think it'll be about us though. If we play how we can play, then I think the result will show this. We just have to be as consistent as we have been in the last two games, but two games is not enough. We need to keep it going longer. "
What's your prediction for Saturday's game in Vancouver? Will the Sounders win, draw, or loss and why? Let us know in the comments section below.