MATCH: Seattle Sounders FC (13-7-9, 48 points, 4th, MLS West) at Vancouver Whitecaps (10-12-8, 38 points, 5th, MLS West). TYPE: MLS. WHEN: Saturday, 6 p.m., BC Place, Vancouver, British Columbia. MEETING: 129th all-time (Sounders lead 62-46-20); 5th MLS (Sounders lead 2-0-2). LAST 10: Sounders 5-2-3; Whitecaps 2-6-2. TV: NBC Sports Network. RADIO: 97.3 KIRO FM; SPANISH: KOMO2 (Comcast Ch. 114) and La Gran D 99.3 FM.
With a win or a draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps Saturday at BC Place, where Seattle is unbeaten in two visits, the Sounders can earn their fourth consecutive MLS playoff berth and take the lead in the race for the Cascadia Cup. The Sounders are one point out of second place in the Western Conference with a game in hand on the four other playoff teams.
The top five teams from each conference qualify for the playoffs. The first tiebreaker is goals scored followed by fewest disciplinary points. Seattle has scored the third-most goals (45) in the West behind San Jose (62) and the L.A. Galaxy (54). The Sounders have 509 disciplinary points, fewer than Vancouver (599), Real Salt Lake (523) and San Jose (515).
If the Sounders lose, they still can clinch a berth with an loss or draw by FC Dallas.
“In the playoffs, it's a home game and an away game," said head coach Sigi Schmid. "We got to win our home game and we got to get a result on the away game, and we advance. It doesn't matter whether that win is first or second.
“What matters is our attitude. If we learned something (in the 2-1 loss to San Jose) in terms of what attitude we need to have, then (San Jose) was a very successful game for us.”
The Sounders have made the playoffs in each of their first three MLS seasons, but have yet to get out of the first round.
In Cascadia Cup competition, Portland leads with eight points and Seattle has five. But the Timbers have yet to play a Cup match in either Seattle or Vancouver. The Timbers visit Seattle Oct. 7, and the Sounders will open the stadium with the expectation of a crowd in excess of 60,000.
Fredy Montero has had more success against the Whitecaps than any other Seattle player with four goals in four matches, three of them in Vancouver, most recently May 19. Montero is also the leading scorer in Cup competition with seven goals in eight matches.
The Sounders have the third-best road record in MLS this season at 4-3-8, and have gone unbeaten in their past three away contests (1-0-2), the league's second-longest active streak. With 24 goals, Seattle is tied for second with the Earthquakes for the most goals on the road (one behind the Galaxy).
In some ways, it's remarkable that the Sounders haven't run out of gas. Since Aug. 1, the club has played 17 matches, two of which involved travel to Trinidad and Honduras for Champions League matches. Now, the Sounders will play just two matches in the next three weeks.
Schmid plans to use the extra time off to prepare his club for the playoffs.
"I really think we can get some things accomplished and established in terms of how we want to play, and work on things we still need to sharpen up," he said.
The Whitecaps currently hold the fifth playoff spot, two points ahead of FC Dallas. Vancouver hasn't had much success recently, going winless in its last six matches (0-5-1) and winning just twice (2-8-3) in its last 13.
The Whitecaps are T16 in MLS with 31 goals, 18th with 318 shots, and 16th with 104 shots on goal. Conversely, Vancouver has held opponents to 1.33 goals per match (11th in MLS) and recorded nine shutouts (T4).
Martin Rennie's side is led by rookie Darren Mattocks, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft. The Jamaican leads with seven goals, but has not scored since July 27 in a 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake. Forward Camilo has four goals and is tied for the team lead in assists (5) with David Chiumiento. Designated players Barry Robson and Kenny Miller joined Vancouver this summer and have added two goals apiece.
Lee Young-Pyo (29 starts), Martin Bonjour (27 starts), and Jay DeMerit (27 starts) have been staples on the back line, all scoring a goal while Lee has four assists.
SOUNDERS PROBABLE LINEUP: Goalkeeper -- Michael Gspurning. Defenders -- Adam Johansson, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez. Midfielders -- Osvaldo Alonso, Christian Tiffert, Brad Evans, Steve Zakuani. Forwards -- Fredy Montero, Eddie Johnson.
WHITECAPS PROBABLE LINEUP: Goalkeeper -- Brad Knighton. Defenders -- Lee Young-Pyo, Martin Bonjour, Jay DeMerit, Jordan Harvey, Alain Rochat. Midfielders -- Gershon Koffie, Barry Robson, Darren Mattocks. Forwards -- Atiba Harris, Camilo.
INJURIES (Sounders): Out -- FW Babayele Sodale (ACL tear), DF Andrew Duran (ACL surgery). Questionable -- D Patrick Ianni (abductor strain). Probable -- MF Mauro Rosales (quad strain), Christian Tiffert (ankle sprain).
DISCIPLINARY SITUATION (Sounders): Fredy Montero and Osvaldo Alonso will be suspended after their next yellow cards.
LAST MLS MATCH (Sounders, Sept. 22): Steve Zakuani scored his first goal in more than a year, but the Sounders dropped a 2-1 decision to MLS West leader San Jose at CenturyLink Field. The Earthquakes received goals from Simon Dawkins and Chris Wondolowski. The goal by Dawkins came in the second minute, the earliest goal against Seattle this season. Seattle gave up a first-minute goal to Colorado July 16, 2011.
LAST VS. WHITECAPS (Aug. 18): Fred Montero (64th minute) and Eddie Johnson (87th) scored as the Sounders defeated the Whitecaps 2-0 in front of 55,718 at CenturyLink Field to level the series 1-1. Four Sounders (Jeff Parke, Osvaldo Alonso, Mauro Rosales and Brad Evans) recorded assists.
SERIES: Dates to June 19, 1974, when the Sounders, then of the North American Soccer League, met the Whitecaps at Vancouver's Empire Stadium. Since then, the franchises have met 128 times while playing in various leagues, Seattle leading 62-46 with 20 draws.
SOUNDERS STATS / NOTES
- SEASON SUMMARY: Overall: 13-7-9. Last 5: W-D-W-D-L. Home: 9-4-1. Road: 4-3-8. Vs. East: 4-1-4. Vs. West: 9-6-5. March: 2-1-0; April: 2-0-1; May: 3-2-2; June: 0-2-2; July: 2-0-2; August: 3-1-0; September: 1-1-2. Goals For: 45. Goals Against: 31. Differential: +14.
- MLS TEAM RANKS: Goals: 45 (5th). Goals Scored Avg.: 1.55 (5th). Goals Allowed Per Match: 1.07 (2nd). Shots: 372 (10th). Shots On Goal: 120(15th). Fouls Committed: 374 (T9). Fouls Suffered: 384 (4th). Yellow Card Cautions: 46 (11th).
- Sounders are 6-0-1 when leading at the half, 7-2-7 when tied at the half and 0-5-1 when trailing at the half.
- Sounders 12-0-3 when scoring first and 1-7-4 when conceding first.
- Sounders have not lost consecutive MLS games in 61 outings (31-12-18) -- the longest stretch in league history.
- Sounders are 5-1-2 across all competitions this season when they have had at least six days between matches.
- Sounders are three points behind last season's record-setting pace with 48 points through 29 matches. The team has already surpassed or matched the point totals from 2009 and 2010.
- Sounders have the second fewest losses (7) in MLS this season.
- David Estrada made his first appearance since May 26 in the San Jose match after suffering a broken foot. “I felt like I didn’t really have to rush it because the team was doing so well,” Estrada said. “It’s good when the team is doing well and you can just kind of nurse the injury and come back and have a positive impact on the team."
- Michael Gspurning ranks second in MLS with a 0.84 goals against average, 0.01 behind Sporting Kansas City's Jimmy Nielsen.
- Mauro Rosales ranks second in MLS with 13 assists and five game-winning assists.
- Eddie Johnson is fifth in the Budweiser Golden Boot Race with 13 goals and Fredy Montero is sixth with 12.
- Sounders are 6-4-4 all-time in September, outscoring opponents 21-14.
- Sounders are 12-0-3 when scoring first and has a 29-game unbeaten streak (23-0-6) when scoring first.
- Seattle's average attendance of 42,134 is on track to set the league record. It is nearly 20,000 more than No. 2 Montreal's.
- Highest attendance for an MLS game this season was 60,908 when the Sounders hosted the LA Galaxy at CenturyLink Field Aug. 5.
- Sounders expect more than 60,000 for the Oct. 7 match against the Portland Timbers.
- The Sounders announced this week that an international friendly will not be part of the 2013 schedule. Seattle hosted Chelsea this past summer in a match that attracted 53,309.
|Starts||Alonso 25, Evans 24, Parke 24|
|Goals||Johnson 13, Montero 12, Estrada 5|
|Assists||Rosales 13, Montero 6, Caskey 4|
|Shots||Montero 105, Johnson 63, Alonso 31|
|Shots On Goal||Montero 38, Johnson 22, Evans 11|
|Fouls Caused||Montero 58, Johnson 34, Alonso 33|
|Fouls Suffered||Montero 60, Johnson 43, Alonso 43|
|Offsides||Johnson 32, Montero 18, Estrada 6|
|Corner Kicks||Rosales 63, Tiffert 21, Fernandez 16|
|Cautions||Alonso 7, Johnson 6, Montero 5|
|Ejections||Hurtado 1, Fernandez 1, Montero 1|
|4/7||^at DC United||4:30||KING||D||0-0||2-1-1|
|5/9||^at FC Dallas||5:30||KONG||W||2-0||7-1-1|
|6/26||&at San Jose||7:30||Webcast||W||1-0||3-0-0|
|6/30||^at New England||4:30||KONG||D||2-2||7-5-5|
|7/15||^at New York||1:00||ESPN||D||2-2||8-5-7|
|8/5||^vs. LA Galaxy||6:00||ESPN2||W||4-0||10-5-7|
|8/8||&at Sport KC||6:00||GolTV||L||2-1||4-1|
|8/11||^at San Jose||7:30||KONG||L||2-1||10-6-7|
|9/2||^at FC Dallas||4:00||KING||D||1-1||12-6-8|
|10/21||^vs. FC Dallas||6:00||ESPN||---||---||---|
|10/28||^at LA Galaxy||6:00||ESPN||---||---||---|