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June 8, 2013 at 10:20 AM

Sounders FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, preview and prediction

Vancouver Whitecaps FC LogoSounders FC (5-4-3) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (4-4-4)
Saturday, June 8, 7:30 p.m., CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
National TV: NBC Sports Network (Arlo White, Kyle Martino)
Local radio: KIRO 97.3 FM (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)
Spanish radio: La Gran D 99.3 FM
Referee: Hilario Grajeda

KEY WHITECAPS PLAYERS

M Nigel Reo-Coker — The 29-year-old Englishman is in his first year in the league after time with English Premier League clubs like West Ham, Aston Villa and Bolton. Hard tackles. No nonsense. He’s kind of developing an Osvaldo Alonso-like following up in Vancouver. Might have made Alain Rochat expendable and, back from suspension, I’m guessing you’ll notice his presence in midfield pretty quickly.

F/M Camilo — The Brazilian striker has two goals in the head-to-head series, tied for most on the team with former forward Eric Hassli. He’s been arguably the ‘Caps most dangerous weapon this season with three goals and an assist. Kenny Miller has played just four games and Darren Mattocks is on international duty, so he’s definitely assuming a lot of the responsibility up front.

D Lee Young-Pyo — The Korean legend got my vote for MLS Newcomer of the Year last season. I think his own teammates even voted him team MVP after the 2012 campaign. He’s 36 years old, has played in three World Cups and leagues all over the world, so you know experience is at a max. He’s also collected five assists in 45 league games.

KEY MATCHUPS

Obafemi Martins/Lamar Neagle vs. Andy O’Brien/Johnny Leveron — Seattle’s goalkeeper and defense will be first-choice selections. The midfield won’t be. But I’ll be looking at the forwards Saturday, as this combination has looked particularly impressive when starting together in Colorado and Chivas. Vancouver’s defense, with captain Jay DeMerit (Achilles), has given up 10 goals on the road.

Russell Teibert vs. Leo Gonzalez — Reo-Coker, earlier this season, vouched for Teibert, a 20-year-old Canadian prospect. And the youngster has started to produce. He’s got two goals (both in a big win over the Galaxy) and an assist in the past three games. He can play on the left and right, mostly on the right recently, unless I’m mistaken. That’s where he’ll meet the Costa Rican veteran who has manned that side for the Sounders since midway through 2009.

Seattle in front of big crowds vs. Whitecaps in Cascadia Cup — More than 51,000 tickets have been sold for this one as CenturyLink Field’s MLS capacity has been increased. Seattle is 4-0 when drawing more than 50K with a 11-1 goal differential. Vancouver, on the other hand, has struggled against Pacific Northwest rivals, having gone winless in 11 games against the Sounders and Timbers (0-6-5).

PREDICTION

Tough call this one. Sounders FC will be without Osvaldo Alonso (thigh), Eddie Johnson (USA), Brad Evans (USA), Shalrie Joseph (suspension), Mario Martinez (Honduras) and Steve Zakuani (sports hernia). That is the makings of a pretty solid squad right there, and Seattle’s midfield options are left pretty thin.

Vancouver has some issues, too, with DeMerit, Mattocks and midfielder Gershon Koffie (thigh) unavailable. Shorthanded lineups plus a newly installed and temporary grass surface might lead to a bit of a sloppy game, I feel.

The safe bet would be to pick a Seattle win. The team has won four of five and has been best in MLS its past seven games (5-1-1). But I’m going another way…

Sounders FC 1, Vancouver Whitecaps FC 1

VAN — Kenny Miller (Matt Watson) 56′
SEA — Servando Carrasco (pk) 76′

*     *     *

What do you think? How do you see this one playing out?

| More in Preview and prediction

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