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October 10, 2014 at 9:24 AM

What to watch for: Sounders FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

The Sounders can both raise the Cascadia Cup and jump into sole possession of first place in MLS — at least temporarily — when it hosts rival Vancouver at CenturyLink Field on Friday night.

Last time out: Whitecaps 1, Sounders 0 on July 5 at B.C. Place — Sebastian Fernandez, who will miss Friday’s match with yellow card accumulation, scored the lone tally in the 12th minute to snap a three-match Seattle winning streak.

Battle to watch: Sounders lineup vs. the injury list

In every post-training press conference this week, the report on injured Seattle trio Gonzalo Pineda, Zach Scott and Leo Gonzalez got more positive. They went “all-in” on Tuesday, coach Sigi Schmid said, and survived each of the subsequent follow-up tests.

All are still game-day decisions, however, and the moment of truth beckons.

Andy Rose and Micheal Azira have performed well in Pineda’s three-match absence, but the veteran’s influence has certainly been missed in the midfield. Pineda excels in the little things that can help tilt the possession game, and against an opposing group featuring playmakers like Pedro Morales and Mauro Rosales, that battle could prove decisive.

The return of Scott and Gonzalez, who have both missed the last two matches, would be a huge boost to a back line that will already be missing USMNT call-up DeAndre Yedlin.

Jalil Anibaba and Djimi Traore have each filled in at center back in the past, and Schmid had this to say about his considerations if Scott can’t go.

“They each have different qualities,” Schmid said. “Djimi, I think, is stronger in the air. He’s a better header of the ball. Anibaba is maybe a little bit faster. They bring different qualities and different strengths to the game.”

Player to watch: Whitecaps midfielder Mauro Rosales

Yes, that Mauro Rosales. The former Sounder was gifted a lifeboat off the sinking Chivas USA ship courtesy of a late-August trade, and he’s already made his mark on his new team.

“Rosales is pretty much rejuvenated having gone there from Chivas,” Schmid said. “He’s playing with a really good pop in his step and is playing really well.”

The Whitecaps had won just one of their previous seven matches before rebounding with consecutive victories over playoff contenders Real Salt Lake and Dallas. Rosales assisted on both Vancouver goals in the latter as his team leapfrogged Portland into the Western Conference’s fifth-and-final playoff spot.

The Timbers have since regained a two-point lead, but the ‘Caps do have a match in hand.

Oh, and Vancouver can still claim the Cascadia Cup for itself with a win on Friday night. Any other result, and it’s Seattle’s. This is going to be fun.

How to watch: The match will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network, with the broadcast kicking off at 7 p.m.

 

| More in MLS, Preview and prediction, Sounders FC

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