Whitecaps FC-Sounders Preview

BY foxsports • July 31, 2015

It's no coincidence that the Seattle Sounders have been mired in their worst slump of the season without Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins and Brad Evans in the lineup.

The silver lining is that they're all returning with the Sounders still in good position in the tight Western Conference race.

Seattle can clinch the Cascadia Cup with a victory when they host the first of back-to-back meetings with the rival Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night.

Dempsey played for the U.S. national team in the Gold Cup and Martins had been nursing a groin injury while Seattle (10-10-2) went 1-6-0 in their absences. Evans missed the last four to join Dempsey in Gold Cup action.

The Sounders didn't have a shot on goal in last Saturday's 1-0 loss to Montreal, their third consecutive defeat by the same score to extend their scoreless stretch to 272 minutes.

Despite the recent issues, Seattle is just six points back of West-leading FC Dallas and four behind second-place Vancouver (11-8-3) as its star trio prepares to return.

Dempsey and Martins lead the club with seven goals apiece in league play.

"We're hungry to get back into it and get on a winning streak," Evans told the team's official website. "The attitude is great at practice. Everybody's working. Nobody's throwing in the towel by any means. It's just coming in the locker room, putting some smiles on the faces and getting back to work."

Dempsey assisted on the first of Chad Barrett's two goals in Seattle's dominating 2-0 win at Vancouver in the first meeting May 16. Another victory would give the Sounders the Cascadia Cup, awarded to the club with the most points in MLS head-to-head competition between Seattle, Vancouver and Portland.

The Sounders and Whitecaps also meet in Vancouver on Wednesday, though that won't count toward the Cup standings because it is part of CONCACAF Champions League play.

A Whitecaps victory in this matchup would move them into first place ahead of Dallas, which visits Chicago on Sunday. However, they're not looking past a Seattle team that is finally at full strength.

Vancouver snapped an 0-2-1 stretch with Sunday's 3-1 win over San Jose. Mauro Rosales, Kendall Watson and Octavio Rivero scored, but Rosales went down with a groin injury that will keep him out of this contest.

Pedro Morales came on as a substitute in the 68th minute after missing the previous five with an injury and could be back in the starting lineup with Rosales out. Cristian Techera also is available after serving a one-game suspension against Montreal.

"There's never an easy time to play Seattle," coach Carl Robinson told the team's official website. "They've lost a couple of games, but they'll be there or thereabouts towards the end of the year without a doubt. They always are.

"It's going to be a difficult game for us. Whether it's their top guys or not or our top guys or not, it's about who performs."

Vancouver went 4-0-1 in the previous five against the Sounders prior to the loss in May, including wins in the last two meetings in Seattle.

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