VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps could be without their teenage phenom when they battle their West Coast rivals in a key contest.
Midfielder Alphonso Davies didn’t participate in training Friday. The club said the 17-year-old MLS all-star was away with the team’s permission and that his status for Saturday’s game against the Seattle Sounders is "unknown."
No explanation was given for his absence on Friday.
Davies has three goals and eight assists this season, and the Whitecaps (7-8-5) likely would miss him in what figures to be a hotly contested match.
Vancouver, sitting two points out of a playoff spot, has lost four of its last five games, while Seattle (4-9-5) is on a three-game unbeaten streak.
The teams have long been regional rivals, a dynamic that only intensified when the Sounders ousted the Whitecaps from the playoffs with a 2-0 win in November.
In regular-season play last year, each team notched a win on home turf. A third game in Vancouver last August came to a 1-1 draw.
Striker Kei Kamara hasn’t yet played the Sounders as a Whitecap, but said he’s looking forward to a match that has a bit of extra bite.
"I’m really going to cherish it," he said. "And I’m going to feed off some of these guys’ energy and how it’s been. We’re in the position where we need points, both of us. So every point counts right now."
Chasing much-needed points will increase the game’s intensity, said Vancouver keeper Stefan Marinovic.
"Both teams are going to be going at it, fighting for playoff spots," he said. "Seattle’s trying to keep their season alive, I guess. So it’s going to be an incredibly intense game."
Marinovic was back in net for the first time in 10 games Wednesday, when the Whitecaps lost 1-0 to the Impact in Montreal in the first leg of a Canadian Championship semifinal.
After spending nearly two months on the sidelines with a knee injury, being back in net felt comfortable, the goalie said.
"To finally get 90 minutes under my belt feels really good," he said.
Vancouver needs all the healthy players it can get as the team slogs through a packed schedule of five games in 15 days, including matches in Washington, Montreal, Seattle and Vancouver.
Coach Carl Robinson said he’s trying to keep his crew fresh by rotating players. Wednesday’s match in Montreal saw midfielder David Norman Jr. make his debut with the Whitecaps first team.
"I’ve got firm belief in every one of my players," he said. "Every one of the 24 players gets the chance to play. … And that will continue as we get towards the end of the season. Whoever’s in form plays."
Whether captain Kendall Waston will be back in the lineup Saturday remains to be seen. He’s been out with a groin strain since the beginning of the month, but trained with his teammates on Friday and said he’s feeling great.
"I don’t feel no pain so now it’s (coach’s) decision," he said.
Robinson said he’ll make a call Saturday morning about whether or not Waston is in the lineup.
"It’s going to be a very difficult game for us," Robinson said. "We’ve been playing well at times recently, we’ve been making little errors at times. We need to try and eliminate those but also put our stamp on the game.
"If we’re able to go out and perform, go out and give everything, which they do every week, have a little bit of luck and tidy up on a few details, then it should be a good game. And that’s what we want."
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (7-8-5) AT SEATTLE SOUNDERS (4-9-5)
Saturday, CenturyLink Field
YOU AGAIN?: The Whitecaps and Sounders have met 133 times since 1974. Seattle has won 63 of the matches while Vancouver took 49 and 21 ended in draws.
SEATTLE HOMECOMING: The Sounders are returning home from a three-game trip, where they tallied a win and two ties.
RUIDIAZ COMING IN: Forward Raul Ruidiaz is expected to make his MLS debut for the Sounders after signing with the team as a designated player late last month. He’ll be a familiar face to Whitecaps midfielder Yordy Reyna, who has played with Ruidiaz on the Peruvian national team.
BIG GOALS: Seattle has struggled to put the ball in the back of the net this season, scoring just 16 goals in 18 games. The Sounders are at the bottom of the league when it comes to goals scored, while the Whitecaps are in the middle of the pack with 30 goals in 20 games.