The Seattle Sounders have work to do if they're going to win a second consecutive Cascadia Cup, but they're still leading both of their Pacific Northwest rivals in the Western Conference standings.
A victory over the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday could help Seattle in both races.
With each team having played each other once this season, Seattle (10-6-7) has one point in Cascadia Cup play behind Portland's four and Vancouver's two.
The Sounders, though, hold the third-place tiebreaker in the West over Los Angeles and the Whitecaps (10-8-7), and they're well in front of the last-place Timbers.
Coming off a five-match stretch in 15 days that ended with last Saturday's 2-1 loss at league-best San Jose, Seattle will go for a fifth consecutive home win across all competitions. The Sounders, who have outscored opponents 16-7 while going 7-3-1 at home in league play, played to a 2-all draw June 11, 2011, in Vancouver's only visit to Seattle as an MLS team.
"Winning the Cascadia Cup, the most important thing about it is I think it puts us a step closer to achieving our playoff goals and achieving our position that we want to finish the season at," Sounders coach Sigi Schmid told the team's official website.
While the Whitecaps are still very much in the playoff conversation, they've gone 3-5-2 since a 5-1-3 run. Vancouver, though, should be in a better position Saturday than in a 2-0 home loss to FC Dallas on Wednesday when leading scorer Darren Mattocks (Jamaica), Dane Richards (Jamaica), Carlyle Mitchell (Trinidad and Tobago), Russell Teibert (Canada) and Etienne Barbara (Malta) were away on international duty.
"That's one of those performances we're going to like to forget real quickly and fortunately we have a big derby on Saturday," goalkeeper Joe Cannontold the Whitecaps' official website.
Captain Jay DeMerit could return to Vancouver's lineup after missing the Dallas loss with a concussion, but fellow defender Martin Bonjour won't be available due to yellow-card accumulation. Plus, midfielder Barry Robson must sit out after the league announced Saturday he was suspended for one game for "aggravated dissent" toward an official in Wednesday's loss.
Those absences could be a concern as the well-rested Sounders look to put as much pressure on net as possible to avoid losing back-to-back games for the first time since opening 0-2-0 last season.
"That's the game you always want to play in," Seattle's Fredy Montero said of the Cascadia Cup matches. "You always have to score."
Montero, who recorded a team-best four goals in the Sounders' four Cascadia Cup matches in 2011, has scored three times in the last two contests against the Whitecaps. He beat Cannon in the 90th minute to give Seattle a 2-2 draw in Vancouver on May 19.
Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning will likely see his first action in Cascadia Cup play after missing the May 19 match and a 2-1 loss at Portland on June 24 with a hip injury.