Sports

Vancouver Whitecaps visit Seattle Sounders to begin busy August

VANCOUVER - Carl Robinson says there's never a good time to play the Seattle Sounders.

How about twice in five days?

Robinson's Vancouver Whitecaps visit their biggest rivals in Seattle on Saturday in Major League Soccer action before hosting the Sounders on Wednesday in both clubs' CONCACAF Champions League group stage opener.

The two matches mark the start of an extremely busy August for the Whitecaps, who will play eight times over the next five weeks. Robinson is quietly confident, but also happy to play the underdog card heading into the weekend against a team whose roster includes high-priced striker Clint Dempsey.

"You don't need to build up games between us and Seattle," said Vancouver's head coach. "Their budget on one of their players is more than my roster put together. It's a great challenge for us to go into their own backyard and try and get a result."

Asked which competition mattered to him more — MLS or Champions League — Robinson predictably played coy.

"Saturday's game is the most important game for me," he said. "Once we get past Saturday's game, on Saturday night I'll tell you Wednesday's game is the most important."

In truth, Whitecaps co-owner Jeff Mallett said earlier this month his primary focus is on the league and getting Vancouver its first home playoff game in franchise history. The club currently sits second in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, a point back of FC Dallas with a game in hand, and four points up on Seattle.

"Every week is an opportunity," said Robinson. "It's going to be neck-and-neck. We know it's tough. Some great teams, some great coaches in there. We've just got to concentrate on ourselves."

The Sounders will enter Saturday coming off three consecutive 1-0 losses, but Robinson said his team faces a tough test at what will no doubt be a raucous CenturyLink Field.

"They're a top, top team," he said. "You can read into it what you want, whether they've lost a couple of games. They'll be there or thereabouts at the end of the year."

Apart from MLS and Champions League, Vancouver's busy August also includes the two-legged Amway Canadian Championship final against the Montreal Impact that will further stretch the Whitecaps' depth and fitness.

"We deal with it. We don't complain about it," said Robinson. "In five weeks I'll be stood here and I'll either have a big smile on my face or I won't have a big smile on my face."

Robinson added that he has lineups in mind for every one the upcoming games, but was quick to point out that each could all change with injuries, suspensions or poor form.

Regardless of who he picks, Robinson has belief in every member of his squad to get the job done.

"I'm confident in this group, whoever steps across that line," he said. "Whether they're younger or older, whether I rotate the squad, I'm confident they can get a result in any game."

Notes: Whitecaps midfielder Mauro Rosales is out with a groin injury suffered last weekend's 3-1 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes. ... Vancouver captain Pedro Morales played about 25 minutes against San Jose in his first action after missing the last five games with a calf injury. ... Whitecaps striker Darren Mattocks, who scored in both the Gold Cup semifinal and final for Jamaica, is back with the club and will be available to play against Seattle.

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