Whitecaps set for UVic contest

Vancouver Whitecaps FC men’s team will raise the curtain on the 2008 season when they meet the University of Victoria Vikings in a game presented by Wendy’s Restaurants on Sunday afternoon.

The weekend trip to Vancouver Island will be the first of three preseason contests that new Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson will use to prepare his new-look squad for the coming campaign. On March 22, the Whitecaps will play Pacific Northwest rivals Seattle Sounders at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Washington, before meeting Trinity Western University Spartans in Langley, BC, on April 2.

Both Thordarson and his assistant Todd Wawrousek have been busy bringing in as many as nine new faces for 2008, with the players having started preseason training back in January. For Icelandic coach Thordarson, the club’s extended off-season has helped him in his transition to North American soccer. “The long preseason has been helpful to recognize and understand all of the players that are here this season, as well as bring those players into a high level of fitness,” the former Estonia manager told whitecapsfc.com. “The players have been working quite hard and that is really good. It was not that long ago that we started to put things together as a team and our first test will now be on Sunday.”

The former Iceland international striker is hoping a productive display will be seen from his side in the British Columbia provincial capital. “Hopefully, we will see some of the things that we have been working on, especially this week,” he said. “This includes our system of playing, both offensively and defensively. There are some players that I haven’t seen too much of since they’ve arrived, so I’m really looking forward to seeing them play on Sunday.”

Sunday’s game will be the fourth annual meeting between the Whitecaps men and UVic, who are coached by former NASL Whitecaps defender and Canadian national team captain Bruce Wilson. In 2007, the Vikes finished fourth in the Canada West conference after missing the playoffs in the previous two seasons. Wilson will include two new recruits in his line-up on Sunday, as midfielders Patrick Nelson and William Gye have joined the Vikes from Capilano College.

Before the men’s game on Sunday, the Whitecaps women will also start preparations for the 2008 W-League season when they play the UVic Vikes women’s team at Centennial Stadium. With head coach Bob Birarda in Europe with the Canadian women’s national team, Whitecaps interim coach Jesse Symons will be taking a youthful squad to Victoria, with several of players coming from the club’s U-18 Prospects team. Symons will have the experience of former USA international striker Tiffeny Milbrett, Canadian international forward Katie Thorlakson, and goalkeeper Sian Bagshawe to choose from, while Canadian U-17 internationals Monica Lam-Feist and Natalie Boyd are also included in the squad.

UVic will pose a stiff challenge for the visiting Whitecaps, as Tracy David’s Vikes came ever so close to a Canadian Interuniversity Sport national championship title in 2007. However, penalty shootout defeats to York University and the University of British Columbia saw the side finish fourth. UVic’s squad includes two CIS All-Canadians in midfielder Amy Thorogood and top goalscorer Alli Bach. Bach led Canada West in scoring with 13 goals last season.

Sunday’s games between the Whitecaps and UVic Vikes kick off with the women’s game at 1pm, followed by the men’s game at 3pm. Both games will be held at Centennial Stadium on the campus of the University of Victoria. Tickets are available in advance by contacting the UVic University Centre Ticket Office, available on the web by visiting www.auditorium.uvic.ca, or by calling (250) 721-8480. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for seniors/students/children, and $3 for Lower Island youth soccer members. All proceeds from both games will go towards UVic soccer scholarships.

The Whitecaps men open the 2008 USL First Division regular season at Swangard Stadium with an all-Canadian tilt versus the Montreal Impact on April 12. Season tickets are on sale now and start at $199. All season tickets include a bonus ticket to this year’s international friendly. For more information, click here or call the Whitecaps office at 604.669.WAVE (9283).