VANCOUVER, B.C. – Vancouver and Seattle will push their soccer rivalry to a 126th meeting today, but this one will be unlike any of the others.
It will be:
• Their first match at renovated BC Place.
• The first time original Sounder Sebastien Le Toux faces his former teammates in a Cascadia Cup derby.
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• The first time the teams meet with each having something on the line in the Major League Soccer standings.
When the clubs met last year, the Whitecaps were on their way to a 6-18-10 record in their first MLS season.
This season, Vancouver is 5-3-2 and five points behind 7-2-1 Seattle in the Western Conference.
Vancouver coach Martin Rennie “is doing a good job with the team,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “Obviously, they made a lot of personnel changes and so forth. But I’ve known him for a while, and what I’ve always liked about Martin is he’s very confident; he’s got a very clear plan in his mind as to what he wants to do. I think he’s been able to get that across to his players.”
One of those new acquisitions is Le Toux, an original Sounder signed in advance of Seattle’s expansion 2009 season.
“It’s always nice to see (former teammates),” Le Toux said. “But when you’re on the field you want to win – but with respect. We know we don’t want to hurt each other, and play fair. It’s always nice, but we wear different jerseys, and at the end we have to help our team win.”
Le Toux leads the Whitecaps with three goals. And his success does not surprise those who used to train against him in Seattle.
“Absolutely, we saw that potential when he was here in Seattle,” Sounders defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado said this week through a translator. “He was a great player here in Seattle. When he went to Philadelphia and now in Vancouver he continues being a great player.”
Seattle leads 61-45-19 in a rivalry that dates to 1974 and the North American Soccer League and continued through the Western Soccer League, USL-1 and MLS.
Le Toux played in several of those USL matches as a Sounder. And so did current Sounder Roger Levesque.
“It obviously goes back longer than I’ve been around,” he said. “… It’s been great to be a part of it through the USL days and into MLS. I think it’s just going to gain traction as the two teams play each other more. I know we’ve got a big group of Emerald City Supporters coming up. … There should be a lot of green fans along with the blue and white. I’m looking forward to seeing that energy and feeling this place rocking.”
The Sounders actually have played at BC Place before – back in the NASL days. In fact, on June 20, 1983, a Pacific Northwest-record soccer crowd of 60,342 turned out for the first sporting event in the then-new stadium: a 2-1 Whitecaps victory.
A major renovation on that original stadium was completed late last season. Alterations include a retractable roof, new artificial turf, a huge overhead scoreboard, and a system of tarps that sets the soccer seating capacity at about 21,000.
The current Sounders got their first look at the place Friday during an afternoon training session.
“It’s beautiful what they’ve done with the place,” Levesque said. “I’m looking forward to seeing it full.”
SOUNDERS FC (7-2-1; 22 POINTS) AT VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (5-3-2, 17)
2 p.m., BC Place, Vancouver, B.C.
TV: Ch. 6/16. RADIO: 97.3-FM.
CLUB LEADERS: For Seattle – G 4, David Estrada; A 2, Alex Caskey and Alvaro Fernandez; S 48, Fredy Montero; SOG 16, Fredy Montero; GAA 0.29, Bryan Meredith. For Vancouver – G 3, Sebastien Le Toux; A 3, Davide Chiumiento; S 21, Eric Hassli; SOG 8, Camilo. GAA 1.16; Joe Cannon.
HEAD TO HEAD: In MLS competition, the Sounders lead 1-0-1, and 1-0 in Vancouver. The Whitecaps visit Seattle on Aug. 18, and the Sounders will return to Vancouver on Sept. 29.
NOTES: This is the first match of the 2012 Cascadia Cup, contested among Portland, Vancouver and defending champion Seattle. … Seattle has an MLS-high eight-game road unbeaten streak (7-0-1). … The Sounders and Whitecaps are coming off streak-ending losses. Vancouver had won its previous four, and Seattle its previous five. … Seattle leads MLS with four goals surrendered. Vancouver is 13th in goals scored and 17th in shots taken. … Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning (hip) and defender Patrick Ianni are out. Leo Gonzalez (quad) is listed as probable, and midfielder Brad Evans (calf) as doubtful. Vancouver forward Atiba Harris (quad) is questionable. ... Former Sounder Sebastien Le Toux was traded from Philadelphia to Vancouver over the off-season. … Hassli is one caution away from yellow-card suspension. … The referee is Terry Stotz.
QUOTABLE: “He’s a horse. He’s big and he’s strong, and he’s willing to try those unbelievable goals. I used to have an assistant coach, and he used to say: ‘Dare to be brilliant.’ If you don’t try that, you can never score a brilliant goal.” – Sounders coach Sigi Schmid on Hassli.
NEXT: 7 p.m. Wednesday, vs. Columbus Crew, CenturyLink Field.