I'll be live-blogging tonight's Vancouver Whitecaps - Portland Timbers clash tonight at 7:30 p.m. Pacific (10:30 p.m. Eastern), both here and over at [The 24th Minute]. The rivalry games between these sides, both set to join MLS next year, are always interesting on their own, but this one comes with some extra importance. It's only two days since Vancouver made an interesting trade [Marc Weber, The Province], sending FC Tampa Bay a pair of fine midfielders in former USL-1 MVP Jonny Steele and all-star Ricardo Sanchez in return for future considerations.
It's a curious move from a pure talent perspective, as both Sanchez and Steele had been tremendously successful at the USL-1 level and had played well with the Whitecaps when called upon. However, when you consider other factors, this makes more sense. Vancouver has quite a bit of midfield depth, and the starting central tandem of Martin Nash and Luca Bellisomo has played quite well. Sanchez and Steele were valuable as substitutes or for depth purposes, but neither was probably all that happy with that role. Moreover, moving them out allows the Whitecaps to find more playing time for younger players like Nizar Khalfan, Ethan Gage and Alex Elliott. Perhaps most importantly, the move frees up two of Vancouver's allowed eight international slots, which may let them bring in some other players.
For the moment, though, the Whitecaps have less proven midfield options. Tonight will be an interesting chance to see who takes the place of Steele and Sanchez. Join me at 7:30 for the live blog!