Feast or famine for Caps - The Vancouver Sun

Out of action for two weeks, Vancouver set to play eight games in 21 days

Ian Walker
Vancouver Sun

If you can't remember the last time the Vancouver Whitecaps played a competitive game of soccer, you're not the only one. It's been two weeks since the United Soccer Leagues First Division team lost 1-0 to the Minnesota Thunder at Swangard Stadium.

Fourteen days? That's a lifetime for some butterflies. Not to mention most of the club's veteran players.

Thank goodness the Port Authority broke the silence about their impasse with Whitecaps owner Greg Kerfoot and his proposed waterfront stadium or the team may have fallen out of the B.C.'s sporting consciousness all together.

There's no fear of that this month as tonight's game against the Rochester Rhinos at Swangard Stadium begins one of the busiest stretches of the season, as head coach Teitor Thordarson's men play eight games in the next 21 days.

The visit of Rochester is just one of two home games in May, with the squad playing five USL-1 matches on the road.

The Whitecaps have an international friendly against David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer in Edmonton on Tuesday, before continuing east to play Miami FC for their next USL-1 game on May 19.

"It's not what you'd like to start a season, but it is how it is," said Thordarson, whose team opened the season with a 1-0 home win over the Montreal Impact on April 12.

"We cannot change it."

Third-year Whitecap Tony Donatelli will get his first start of the season tonight in place of winger Vicente Arze, who returned to Macon, Ga., to complete his business and marketing degree at Mercer University.

Donatelli rejoined the club three weeks ago after the completion of his indoor soccer season with the Philadelphia Kixx. Donatelli said he's hoping to provide the same form he did during the 2006 USL-1 playoffs when he was a major contributor in Vancouver's 2006 championship run.

The Glenside, Pa., native led all goalscorers with three goals and one assist, including the second goal in the Whitecaps' 3-0 win over the then-Rochester Raging Rhinos in the championship final. Last year, the 24-year-old scored five times in 29 regular-season games.

"It's something I'm looking to do and have the ability to do, it's just up to me to get it done," said Donatelli. "I need to be more consistent offensively, and with the system and the team we have ... once we get on the same page, and we're getting there, it'll be a good thing."

Vancouver comes into the game sporting a 1-1 record, while Rochester is the league's lone winless club at 0-2-1 after starting their season on the road with three games in seven nights.

The Rhinos, who dropped the 'Raging' from their team name this season, are coming off an impressive scoreless tie with the Portland Timbers (3-0-1) on Thursday.

"Having not played for two weeks, we should be quite fresh and ready to attack this game in good shape," said Thordarson, whose team has created many chances but only converted once on the season.

"We have to make that as an advantage. If we think Saturday is going to be easy, then it will be a problem."

A number of reasons factor into the USL-1's unbalanced schedule, including the league's broadcast agreements and the need for teams to book multiple games on road trips to reduce costs.

GOAL DUST: Defender Geordie Lyall (thigh) and goalkeeper Jay Nolly (knee) are unavailable due to injury.

iwalker@png.canwest.com

© The Vancouver Sun 2008