View From The Inside: A look into the Whitecaps

Prost Amerika's Vancouver correspondent Michael McColl takes us behind enemy lines

Editor's Note: We once again return to our colleagues at ProstAmerika.com, a website based in Seattle and devoted to American soccer through the lens of the Pacific Northwest region. 

After getting insider reports on the Seattle Sounders earlier this season, we turn to Prost Amerika's Vancouver correspondent Michael McColl for an examination of the Whitecaps. Michaels’ musings on all things Whitecaps can also be read in his part blog, part fanzine AFTN.

Portland's third match in the 2011 Cascadia Cup on Saturday night  looks on paper to be a very winnable game against Major League Soccer's basement team (7pm PT, FOX Soccer; 750 AM The GameLa Pantera 940 AM).

Unfortunately soccer isn't played on paper and the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps will have some points to prove, as they look to bounce back from a horrific display in a 4-0 loss at D.C. United last Saturday and boost their chances of lifting the Cascadia Cup.

There are few more dangerous opponents in soccer than a team who have been embarrassed and are looking to get some pride back. Add in some local rivalry, a Cascadia Cup on the line and a 500 strong travelling support and things will not be as simple as the Timbers would perhaps like and Portland fans may be expecting.

Vancouver's inability to win a single away game this season in thirteen previous attempts does not tell the full story.

Apart from las Saturday's big loss, and the game in Salt Lake in June, the Whitecaps have been competitive in every game they've played this season. A mixture of bad breaks, failure to capitalise on chances, continued lapses in the closing minutes of halves and the inability to hold on to leads have all combined to play havoc with the Canadians.

This Saturday's encounter is the first meeting in MLS action of the League's new blood, and their first Cascadia Cup clash as MLS sides, in a battle which has history way back to 1975. Although recent action has taken place at Division 2 level, the games have always been competitive and much looked forward to by both sets of fans.

The Cascadia Cup is the only silverware that Vancouver have left to play for this season and this weekend's game is their second in this year's competition, having already recorded an action packed 2-2 draw in Seattle in June. With their final two games of the Cup at home, many within the Whitecaps camp will see themselves in pole position to lift the trophy they last won in 2008.

Portland will certainly have their hands full on Saturday and the defence in particular should expect to see a busy night's work ahead of them.

Vancouver's attacking threat seriously belies their current lowly League position. In Eric Hassli and Camilo da Silva Sanvezzo (above), they have a strikeforce with 17 goals between them.

Add in Davide Chiumiento, who has eight assists so far this season, and new designated player Mustapha Jarju, and the Whitecaps have a pretty potent attack.

How the team manages to accommodate all of these guys in a team that also needs to defend, is the big problem for the Whitecaps management. With the league’s second worst goals conceded tally of 40--ten of which have come in the last three games--shows that they still haven’t found the answer.

Whether Portland will be able to continue to capitalise on Vancouver’s defensive woes, or whether the visitors will bounce back from another hammering with another victory, only time will tell.

What is certain is that Saturday’s game will be full of fight, passion and an atmosphere that the rest of MLS will envy.

May the best team win.