Whitecaps look to rebound vs. Sounders

August 17, 2012, 5:42 PM

THE CANADIAN PRESS

VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps don’t have time to dwell on a disappointing midweek loss, and that suits them just fine.

Just three days after being upset at home by FC Dallas, the Whitecaps march into hostile territory on Saturday when they face the archrival Seattle Sounders before an anticipated 55,000 fans at CenturyLink Field.

The congested Major League Soccer scheduling gives the Whitecaps the chance to quickly atone for Wednesday’s 2-0 loss, where Dallas dealt short-handed Vancouver just its second home defeat of the season.

The fifth-place Whitecaps (10-8-7) will have to put that behind them when they face the fourth-place Sounders (10-6-7) in what will be a pressure-cooker environment.

"It’s one of those games where you’re going to be excited about it no matter when it comes along and it’s against a local rival," coach Martin Rennie said. "So the fact that it’s a few days (after a loss) is good."

The regional rivals are level on points and jostling for the best position in the top half of the Western Conference, and while fans of both teams will be hyping up the Pacific Northwest derby, the match is just one small piece of the puzzle for the Whitecaps coaches and players.

It is the first of four straight road games for Vancouver — all against Western Conference teams — and Rennie said it wouldn’t be the "end of the world" if his side returned from Washington empty-handed.

"It will be certainly nice to win, but it’s not a must-win," he said, adding the two sides will meet again in B.C on September 29.

"It’s a big game for both teams. For our fans it’s one of those games where you feel like you’re desperate to win, but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t."

Vancouver’s last cluster of consecutive road matches from June 23 to July 14 didn’t yield the results Rennie was aiming for — one win, three losses and a draw — but with several new and experienced faces in the squad, the coach is confident of better results this time.

"(This away stretch) is important," he said. "I think on the road our results overall have been a bit average and over the next four games we can make it quite a good road record and that’s what we have to be focused on.

"A couple of wins would give us a very good road record for the season and that’s what we need to try and find."

Midfielder Barry Robson — who captained the side on Wednesday in place of injured skipper Jay DeMerit — said it was important his teammates didn’t put too much emphasis on the result with Seattle.

"This is no bigger than the game (Wednesday) night and it’s no bigger than the game next weekend," he said. "So, as a derby game, it is what it is but we just have to make sure that we are at our best and come out of the traps flying and make sure we get after them and try and leave everything on that pitch."

Still, Robson — who played in numerous Old Firm clashes for Celtic against Rangers in the Scottish Premier League — couldn’t ignore the game’s importance from a fan’s perspective.

"I think the thing you always need to remember in a derby is you’ve got to respect it," he said. "I’ve done that everywhere I’ve been."

DeMerit will likely miss his second straight game with concussion even though his condition has improved in recent days.

Fellow central defender Martin Bonjour will also sit out through suspension, making it the first time since a 4-1 loss away to New England on May 12 that both DeMerit and Bonjour won’t be on the field.

Veteran Irish centre-back Andy O’Brien could be joined by Alain Rochat in the middle of the defence, with Jordan Harvey deployed to left back.

Striker Darren Mattocks and speedy winger Dane Richards return from international duty after helping Jamaica to a 2-0 friendly win over El Salvador, while key Ghanaian midfielder Gershon Koffie comes back from suspension.

The return of the trio could push forwards Kenny Miller and Atiba Harris as well as midfielder John Thorrington to the bench.

Richards recorded his 39th cap for the Reggae Boyz but the measly 14 minutes he played left Rennie bemused.

"It’s not like they don’t know what he (Richards) can do, so it’s a bit frustrating that he wasn’t available for a big game for us," he said.

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