Whitecaps FC make maiden MLS road trip to Philadelphia Union
MLS MATCH CENTRE: mlssoccer.com/matchcenter/philadelphia-union-vs-vancouver-whitecaps
TV: Sportsnet ONE
RADIO: TEAM 1410 and teamradio.ca
LIVE MATCH TRACKER
Coming off a memorable Major League Soccer debut victory over Toronto FC, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (1W-0L-0D) take to the road for the first time as an MLS club, as they visit Eastern Conference side Philadelphia Union (1W-0L-0D) on Saturday afternoon.
The Blue and White could not have asked for a better way to make their return to the North American top flight, as a pair of goals from Designated Player Eric Hassli led Whitecaps FC to a convincing 4-2 victory over their Canadian arch-rivals at Empire Field last weekend. With the first three MLS points now registered, Teitur Thordarson's side now prepare for a difficult trip to Chester, Pennsylvania, and a game against another Eastern Conference opponent in second-year club Philadelphia. Peter Nowak's side also made a bright start to their 2011 season after claiming a 1-0 victory at Houston Dynamo on Saturday. Danny Califf struck the Union's winner at Houston's Robertson Stadium.
Whitecaps FC's first-ever MLS away match versus Philadelphia Union from PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania, can be seen live across Canada on Rogers Sportsnet ONE and Bell mobile phones at 1 p.m. PT. 'Caps fans can also listen to Saturday's away game live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 11 a.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match at around 3 p.m. PT.
The euphoria of last weekend's win over TFC was not only vital for the confidence of Thordarson's squad, it also generated the type of buzz and excitement that the club had wished for on their debut. Some fine performances have prompted many who attended Vancouver's first-ever MLS match to look at the schedule for future home games. For now, the focus turns to a challenging league match on the road, with Thordarson set to make changes to the starting XI that made an excellent first impression in East Vancouver last weekend.
International call-ups have seen captain Jay DeMerit join the United States national team, who are preparing for a pair of friendly matches at home, while fellow centre back Michael Boxall earned his first call-up to the full New Zealand squad for their friendly in China on Friday. The 2011 CONCACAF U-20 Championship starts in Guatemala next week, with winger Russell Teibert named in Canada's U-20 squad for the tournament, and expected to join Valerio Gazzola's squad on Sunday. Striker Omar Salgado, meanwhile, is with the USA U-20 squad for the competition.
Injuries are have also added to Vancouver's challenges for Saturday's game. MLS SuperDraft pick Michael Nanchoff will miss the Philadelphia trip with a groin strain, while former Union midfielder Shea Salinas is doubtful with a knee sprain. Salinas is joined by midfielders John Thorrington (quad strain) and Davide Chiumiento (hamstring strain) as doubts for this weekend.
Philadelphia Union know all about being an expansion club in MLS. The Pennsylvania outfit endured a tough inaugural season in 2010, as Nowak's side missed the playoffs after finishing second from bottom in the Eastern Conference standings (14th overall) with a record of 8W-15L-7D. Last Saturday's result in Houston was particularly impressive when you consider it was only the Union's third away win as an MLS club. A 2W-12L-1D road record last season is sure to be one of many areas that Philadelphia will want to improve on in 2011.
The offseason saw many changes to Nowak's squad. The former Polish international boosted his goalkeeping department with the acquisition of the well-travelled Faryd Mondragon from Germany's FC Cologne, with the Colombian international being named Union captain by Nowak. Midfielder Brian Carroll arrived in a trade from Columbus Crew, while experienced MLS striker Carlos Ruiz has joined Philadelphia on a free transfer from Greece's Aris Thessaloniki FC.
Nowak paired the Guatemalan international with Sebastien Le Toux for their win against the Dynamo last Saturday. The Frenchman, who had a fine 2010 season with Philadelphia, is a familiar face to Whitecaps FC fans. During the United Soccer Leagues First Division (USL-1) seasons of 2007 and 2008, Le Toux scored three goals against Vancouver for the Seattle Sounders' USL-1 side.
Nowak has a couple of injury concerns for Philadelphia's first-ever home opener at PPL Park. Union centre back Califf is questionable with a knee meniscus problem, while fellow defender Juan Diego Gonzalez has a hip flexor strain.
Saturday's match is the first-ever meeting between Whitecaps FC and the Union, with both clubs set to meet again at Empire Field on Saturday, June 18.
There is one common tie between Vancouver and Philadelphia. 'Caps director of soccer operations Tom Soehn is a former teammate, coach, and coaching colleague of Union head coach Nowak. Together, Soehn and Nowak led then expansion club Chicago Fire to both the MLS Cup and Lamar Hunt US Open Cup titles in 1998, and a second Lamar Hunt US Open Cup title in 2000. From 2004 to 2006, Soehn served as assistant coach to Nowak at D.C. United. During that time, United won both the 2004 MLS Cup title and the 2006 MLS Supporters' Shield as regular season champions. Among the two rosters, Thorrington and Philadelphia's Justin Mapp played together in the Chicago Fire midfield between 2005 to 2010.
Prior to this season, Whitecaps FC have played teams from The City of Brotherly Love before, winning four games during the North American Soccer League (NASL) years. In the 1974 and 1975 NASL seasons, Vancouver won twice over Philadelphia Atoms before claiming two wins over Philadelphia Fury in the 1979 and 1980 NASL campaigns. More recently, Vancouver played Pennsylvania-based opposition in the form of Hershey Wildcats in the 2001 USL-1 playoff semifinals, with Hershey defeating Whitecaps FC 4-1 on aggregate.
NEXT UP: SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Following this weekend's away match against Philadelphia, Whitecaps FC return home to prepare for their third match of the season, as Vancouver play host to MLS Eastern Conference side Sporting Kansas City at Empire Field on Saturday, April 2, 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 our inaugural MLS season.
Whitecaps FC's home match versus Sporting Kansas City can also be seen live on Rogers Sportsnet Pacific and Bell mobile phones 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 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.