Not as heated as Portland, but Sounders FC expects excitement for Vancouver game
Expansion Vancouver Whitecaps make first MLS appearance at Qwest Field
Seattle Times staff reporter
Vancouver @ Seattle, 7:30 p.m., Fox Soccer
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TUKWILA — Sounders FC welcomes another storied rival to Qwest Field this weekend, but the arrival of the Vancouver Whitecaps won't produce quite the hype of Seattle's heated May 14 match against the Portland Timbers.
Although the soccer history runs deep with the Canadian neighbors, the anticipation doesn't compare.
"It's just not the same (with Vancouver), but it's going to be a great rivalry," said goalkeeper Kasey Keller last month before the Portland game. "In the different places I've played around the world ... you have all those rivalries, but there's always one that's your main one."
"I think that's what you find with Vancouver and us. Yeah, that's a big game, but the Portland game is the main derby game."
Even if the excitement isn't 100 percent identical to the Cascadia Cup opener a month ago, that doesn't mean Saturday's 7:30 p.m. match won't still be special. Seattle's rivalry with the Whitecaps dates to 1974 in the North American Soccer League. Through 122 total matches — the most between any two cities in that span — the Sounders boast a 58-45-19 edge.
Seattle coach Sigi Schmid praised the rivalry's long history and tradition, but said Monday that he hadn't yet talked to the players about it. Some don't need the lesson — or the motivation.
"For sure the guys who are from this area, who have played a lot with the Sounders, they have been through that Whitecaps-Sounders rivalry a bit and I know they are excited about it," Schmid said.
Vancouver's early season struggles temper some of that buildup. The Whitecaps (1-6-7) won their first game of the season, but have gone winless in the 13 games since. Last week the expansion side fired coach Teitur Thordarson and replaced him with director of soccer operations Tom Soehn, who coached D.C. United from 2007-09.
Regardless of the circumstances, regional pride — and perhaps some national pride — will be on the line.
"I remember coaching the USL team and going to Vancouver — I mean that's a foreign country," said Sounders FC assistant coach Brian Schmetzer last month. "They're foreigners. We're the United States. We're proud of that, so (the rivalry) was a little bit special because of that."
• Seattle and Vancouver play a Reserve League game at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Starfire Sports Campus. Sounders FC's reserves are 4-0; the Whitecaps are 0-1-1. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted to benefit the team's charitable partners. Parking is $5.
• Injured midfielder Steve Zakuani made his first appearance at Sounders FC training since suffering a broken leg in an April 22 road game in Colorado. The 23-year-old was aided by a single crutch. Schmid said it was "great to see him out here."
"It's that stage where you go through a lot of emotions suffering the injury that he suffered and I think he has spent a lot of time dealing with that," Schmid said. "He has moved forward from that now and when you talk to him he is really eager to get forward and to get after it."
• Erik Friberg participated fully in practice after missing Saturday's game recovering from a sprained ankle. Alvaro Fernandez (hamstring) is day to day.
• In an unscientific poll on The Seattle Times website, more than 90 percent of voters said Sounders FC's rivalry with Portland trumps the one with Vancouver
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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