It’s Vaisakhi Night at BC Place this weekend as the Whitecaps have their first Cascadian clash of the year against Portland. These are two teams with nearly identical records, and two teams that are very much stumbling into this match – one hasn’t won since opening day and the other just received a pantsing at home in their biggest match of the season to this point.
With the ‘Caps’ hopes of lifting the CONCACAF Champions League trophy all but buried six feet under, the hope of a trophy of some kind this year has to turn elsewhere. The Cascadia Cup might not be at top of fans’ minds, but getting one over on our rivals in the Pacific Northwest always feels good and it’s something to celebrate.
The ‘Caps have not won the Cascadia Cup since 2016, a barren stretch of five seasons that’s the longest-ever such streak for the club, including the USL era. Portland are the defending champs, breaking up the recent Seattle hegemony after not losing a match to either the Sounders or the ‘Caps in 2022.
This match also marks the end of a week of three home matches that has seen quite high highs and quite low lows. After putting Montreal to the sword last weekend the ‘Caps took a more pragmatic approach against LAFC midweek, which seemed to be working alright (if not excitingly) until they were undone in a disastrous ten minutes that left them in tatters (and still not very exciting).
The ’Caps continue to be targeted down the flanks, with fullbacks as a bit of a position of concern. Javain Brown and Ryan Raposo have both had their moments going forward but they’ve also had their defensive struggles, while there’s been a bit of a lack of Mathias Laborda minutes given how touted he was when he was brought in over the winter.
In MLS play the team has been solid enough overall defensively, conceding just seven times in six matches, but (outside of the Montreal victory) it’s come at the seeming cost of a wholly functional attack. Ryan Gauld still does not have a goal involvement in MLS play and has been battling a tight hamstring, while outside of Simon Becher flashes the other attackers haven’t been able to mount many serious goal threats.
Christian Dájome has also really struggled to get going this season, without a goal or an assist himself, while Pedro Vite has just one assist in MLS play and Déiber Caicedo hasn’t yet found his footing in a couple substitute appearances. The trio of Gauld, Becher and Brian White feels the most likely to lead the line against Portland, and the ‘Caps will hope they can find a grouping that shows some consistent chemistry.
Looking at the visitors, the Timbers are coming in off back-to-back draws, first 0-0 against the Galaxy at home and then 1-1 on the road in Dallas last weekend. They’d lost three in a row before those results and have been outscored 9-4 on the road so far this season.
Part of the reason for this poor start is an early injury crisis, with seven players out this weekend including regulars Eryk Williamson, Sebastian Blanco, and Yimmi Chara. Goalkeeper David Bingham is also on the shelf while Felipe Mora is still recovering from the season-ending injury he suffered last year. All in all, it’s not been a fun month or two for our Oregon counterparts.
On the other side, it’s been both a fun and very not fun week for the Whitecaps depending on what time you asked the question, and we’ll have to see which direction they end up trending more towards in the near future. The answer is probably somewhere in the middle, but climbing over a point per game pace in MLS play would be a start at least.