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Vancouver Whitecaps host Seattle Sounders in first Cascadia Derby of 2019

Mar 19, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Sounders FC fans start their "March to the Match" with the Cascadia Cup prior to a game against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC at CenturyLink Field. (Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports)

VANCOUVER — The international break is over, and the Vancouver Whitecaps are looking for their first three points of the season. But when the Whitecaps return to BC Place, there will be more on the line than just points. They host the Seattle Sounders at 7 p.m. PST Saturday in the first Cascadia Cup game of the season. 

Created by the fan groups of the three Pacific Northwest clubs — Vancouver, Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders — in 2004, the Cascadia Cup is awarded annually to the club that finishes with the best record in the season series between the three rival clubs. Vancouver is the record champion with six titles, but Seattle won the 2018 edition. 

“The first challenges we’re facing, is that they are a team that is in the top two or three in MLS right now,” Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos said, underlining the importance of the derby. “It is a big opportunity because of the moment. . . . Playing this game home in front of our fans, the Cascadia Cup, what it means to the club to the organization — we’re very aware of that.”

Seattle is a big challenge for the Whitecaps, who have lost the first three games of the season for the first time in Major League Soccer history. The Sounders, in the meantime, beat Cincinnati (4-1), Colorado Rapids (2-0) and Chicago Fire (4-2) to win their first three games of the season. 

“Rivalries are always a different sort of game,” Vancouver wingback Jake Nerwinski said. “Everyone plays a bit harder. We have been hearing the buzz around the fans and the staff. We know what is at stake and that we have an opportunity to get points again against a very good team and a team that we don’t like.”

Whitecaps striker Fredy Montero used to play for Seattle and calle the match “huge, and a big opportunity in front of our fans to prove that we are working hard and that we are disappointed that we lost the three opening games.”

“I guarantee nobody wants to lose this game we’re going to defend our city,” he said.

In general, spirits seemed very high this week, especially when players returned from the international break. But Russell Teibert suffered an injury during Canada’s game against French Guiana on Sunday at BC Place and will likely miss the game against Seattle.

“I’ll tell you this: At the moment, it doesn’t look good for him on Saturday,” Dos Santos said when asked about Teibert. “Hopefully, things can change in the next 48 hours but it’s, it’s something we’re going to know, in the next two or three days.”

Hwang In-Beom played for South Korea against Colombia and Bolivia, and Dos Santos said the midfielder was tired following the trip to the national team.

“We have to assess his situation. I will see how it feels when he gets back here,” Dos Santos said. 

Hence, the Whitecaps could find themselves short two midfielders — maybe three because Andy Rose is also struggling with a minor knock. 

That’s the bad news. The good news is that new left back Ali Adnan had his first training sessions with the club this week an Dos Santos said he is an option against Seattle.

“I just come here to play football and help the team,” Adnan said during interviews with the club’s staff earlier this week. 

The Iraqi will be on loan from Udinese for the next three months, and while the Whitecaps hoped to retain him longer, it seems unlikely he will stay beyond the summer. Nonetheless, his addition brings much-needed depth to the squad ahead of what will be a difficult Cascadia Cup challenge.

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