Whitecaps FC back home to face Sporting Kansas City on Saturday

Start of two-match home stand

Terry Dunfield Teal Bunbury

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After playing their first away match in Major League Soccer last weekend, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (1W-1L-0D) return home to Empire Field when they host Sporting Kansas City (1W-1L-0D) on Saturday afternoon.

The weekend clash with the American Midwest outfit is the first of two home matches, and the first of three games in nine days, versus MLS Eastern Conference opponents for Teitur Thordarson's side. On Wednesday night, the 'Caps play host to New England Revolution in East Vancouver before travelling to Texas for a meeting with two-time MLS Cup winners Houston Dynamo on Sunday, April 10.

Saturday's match also provides Whitecaps FC with a chance to bounce back from last weekend's disappointing 1-0 defeat at Philadelphia Union. A late goal by Union striker Carlos Ruiz was the difference at PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania, with the 'Caps finishing the match with ten men after Eric Hassli's red card early in the second half.

Saturday's match between Whitecaps FC and Sporting Kansas City at Empire Field kicks off at 4 p.m. PT. Individual match tickets start at $20, plus applicable service charges, and are available at all Ticketmaster Ticket Centres, online at ticketmaster.ca, and Charge-by-Phone at 1.855.6.GO-CAPS (1.855.646.2277). CLICK HERE for more information on individual match tickets for the club's inaugural MLS season.

Whitecaps FC's home match versus Sporting Kansas City can also be seen live on Rogers Sportsnet Pacific and Bell mobile devices at 4 p.m. PT. 'Caps fans can also listen to the April 2 contest live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 2 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match at around 6 p.m. PT.

WHITECAPS FC

Though the Union defeat was disappointing, there were positives to draw from the game in Philadelphia. Joe Cannon and Greg Janicki performed well in their Vancouver MLS debuts, while Alain Rochat's play alongside Janicki at centre back earned the Swiss international a spot in the MLSsoccer.com Team of the Week for Week Two.

'Caps fans can expect changes for Saturday's match. With Hassli suspended and Omar Salgado on international duty with the United States U-20 national team, Thordarson is expected to choose between Brazilian import Camilo or Chinese youngster Long Tan to partner Atiba Harris up front. The absence of Whitecaps FC Residency product Russell Teibert to Canada U-20 national team duty will mean there will be a change on the left-hand side of midfield. In the backline, the return of Michael Boxall and Jay DeMerit from international duty gives Thordarson additional options at centre back.

Midfielders Davide Chiumiento (hamstring), Shea Salinas (knee), and John Thorrington (quad) remain questionable for Saturday's game, as does goalkeeper Jay Nolly (shoulder sprain). MLS SuperDraft pick Michael Nanchoff will miss the Kansas City match with a groin strain.

SPORTING KC

With a new brand and a new soccer-specific stadium being built, these are exciting times for Sporting Kansas City. The American Midwest outfit is one of the league's original members, having formed as Kansas City Wizards when MLS began in 1996. The club's 16th season has set a big challenge to Peter Vermes' squad, with their maiden visit to Vancouver being the third game of an extended 10-match road spell to start the campaign. Sporting KC will have to wait until Thursday, June 9, before setting foot in their brand-new, state-of-the-art LIVESTRONG Sporting Park home when they host Chicago Fire.

For now, Sporting KC must try and claim as many away results as they can. They started their season with a 3-2 victory at Chivas USA, with Designated Player Omar Bravo scoring twice in Southern California on March 19. Unfortunately for the visitors, the Mexican star will miss the Whitecaps FC match after being sent off for a tactical foul in last weekend's 3-2 defeat in Chicago.

Vermes' squad includes striker Teal Bunbury (son of former Canadian international goalscorer Alex Bunbury) and promising MLS SuperDraft pick C.J. Sapong. Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, defender Roger Espinoza, midfielder Davy Arnaud, and striker Kei Kamara are also key players for Sporting KC. Vermes has some injury concerns for their visit to Vancouver. Midfielder Ryan Smith and striker Konrad Warzycha (both knee) are out, while Brazilian defender Julio Cesar is questionable with a lower leg laceration. Luke Sassano (ankle), Michael Harrington (groin), and Jon Kempin (quad) are listed as probable for this weekend.

Kansas City have also made headlines recently after taking NFL football star Chad Ochocinco on a six-day trial. The Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver did well enough to earn an appearance in Sporting KC's reserve team game on Monday, with Ochocinco made an honourary member of the club the following day.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Saturday's match is Whitecaps FC's first-ever meeting with Sporting Kansas City. Though both clubs have never played each other before, there is one common tie between the 'Caps and Sporting KC. Whitecaps FC right fullback Jonathan Leathers played three seasons with Kansas City before he was selected by the Blue and White in last November's MLS Expansion Draft.

While Vancouver have a handful of players that have played against Kansas City in previous years, Sporting KC have two players with prior experience of playing Whitecaps FC at the North American second division level. Goalkeeper Eric Kronberg spent the 2006 season on loan at former United Soccer Leagues First Division (USL-1) side Miami FC. He was in goal when Vancouver defeated Miami FC 6-1 on aggregate in the playoffs that year. Last season, Sporting KC defender Scott Lorenz faced the 'Caps as a member of NSC Minnesota Stars in the USSF D-2 Pro League.

GATES OPEN EARLY

After receiving feedback from supporters following the club's MLS debut on March 19, Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) have agreed to open the gates to Empire Field 90 minutes early for Saturday's match at 2:30 p.m. PT.

The early opening will give supporters a greater opportunity to enjoy the fan experience around the stadium, with earlier access to concessions, merchandise, and seating. Should the test run prove to be successful, both Whitecaps FC and the PNE will consider implementing an earlier opening for future matches at Empire Field.

REVOLUTION IS NEXT…

Following this weekend's home match against Kansas City, Whitecaps FC return to Empire Field for their fourth match of the season, as Vancouver play host to New England Revolution on Wednesday, April 6, at 7 p.m. PT. Individual match tickets start at $20, plus applicable service charges, and are available at all Ticketmaster Ticket Centres, online at ticketmaster.ca, and Charge-by-Phone at 1.855.6.GO-CAPS (1.855.646.2277). CLICK HERE for more information on individual match tickets for the club's inaugural MLS season.

Whitecaps FC's home match versus New England Revolution can also be seen live on TSN and Bell mobile devices at 7 p.m. PT. 'Caps fans can also listen to the April 6 contest live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 5 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match at around 9 p.m. PT.

Whitecaps FC Major League Soccer 2011 season tickets start at a base price of $319, plus applicable tax and a $10 processing fee per order, and more than 60 per cent of seats are available for less than $31 per game. To secure a seat and for additional information about Whitecaps FC MLS season tickets, suites, and loge boxes, call 604.669.9283 or visit whitecapsfc.com.