Sounders FC-Vancouver rivalry renews Saturday
Vancouver has vastly improved from a last-place finish in 2011, but records won't matter in Saturday's 2 p.m. rivalry game against Seattle at BC Place, the 126th soccer meeting between the cities.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Sounders FC @ Vancouver, 2 p.m., KONG
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VANCOUVER, B.C. — Records don't matter. Not in rivalry games.
They didn't when Vancouver was the worst team in the Western Conference last year. They don't now that the much improved Whitecaps sit just one place below Sounders FC in the standings.
With a new coach and a new attitude, Vancouver (5-3-2) has nearly equaled last year's win total of six heading into a 2 p.m. home game Saturday against Seattle at BC Place.
But coach Sigi Schmid said it really doesn't change much heading into Game 126 of a storied rivalry.
"I think they're obviously a more confident team, but they were pretty confident (last year)," said Schmid. "They've made some personnel changes, their team's playing a different formation, a little bit of a different style, and all those things we have to take into account. But when you win, you gain confidence, and that makes you a better team."
Martin Rennie, Vancouver's first-year coach, told reporters Thursday that he thinks the Whitecaps have considerably narrowed the gap on the Sounders and the margin has become "quite close."
The Canadian club has made changes at all levels of the organization since joining MLS in 2011, but Schmid points to Rennie when it comes to the vast turnaround from a 6-18-10 mark last year (including a 0-12-5 road record).
"I've known him for a while and what I've always liked about Martin is he's very confident," Schmid said. "He's got a very clear plan in his mind as to what he wants to do and I think he's been able to get that across to his players. He surrounds himself with good coaches and I think they've done a good job in terms of improving the team."
The Whitecaps, despite their record, gave the Sounders all they could handle last year. Vancouver took a 1-0 lead in both games before tying 2-2 at CenturyLink Field in June and losing 3-1 at home in September.
It was fitting excitement for a 38-year-old rivalry in which Seattle owns a 61-45-19 advantage dating to the old North American Soccer League in the 1970s.
"I think it's just going to gain traction as the two teams play each other more," said Roger Levesque, who has been a part of the history since 2003. "We've got a big group of Emerald City Supporters coming up (Saturday), taking buses. There should be a lot of green in the stands as well as the blue and white. I'm looking forward to that energy and seeing this place rocking."
• Rookie defender Andrew Duran showed up to the team bus Friday morning without his passport. Fortunately for the 22-year-old, he lives close to the where the team was meeting and was able to retrieve it in time before the drive to Vancouver.
• Schmid had planned to record Saturday's 11:45 a.m. UEFA Champions League final between European powerhouses Bayern Munich of Germany and England's Chelsea FC. When told the game would be shown on the big screen at BC Place during pregame warmups, Schmid smiled and said: "That could be distracting."
• Vancouver is coming off two days' rest, having tied Toronto FC on Wednesday in the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship. The Whitecaps are nearly 100 percent healthy. Forward Atiba Harris is the only regular listed on the injury report (questionable with a thigh contusion).
• This marks the only week in May that the Sounders will have just one game. Schmid said the break was important to rest, work on tactics in training and get guys healthy.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @joshuamayers
|Both the Sounders and Whitecaps are off to much better 10-game starts compared to last year.|