Whitecaps FC make their MLS debut versus Canadian arch-rivals Toronto FC

Empire Field set for historic Saturday

Whitecaps FC MLS squad

Photo Credit: 
Bob Frid

Two years on from being announced as the 17th team to enter Major League Soccer, Vancouver Whitecaps FC make their long-awaited MLS debut when they host Toronto FC in the first-ever all-Canadian league clash at Empire Field on Saturday afternoon.

March 19, 2011, will become the latest date to be added to the club's long history of memorable milestones, and it is fitting that the club's inaugural MLS match takes place on the very site where Whitecaps FC took their first steps as a professional club. It was on May 5, 1974, when Vancouver hosted San Jose Earthquakes in front of 17,343 fans at the Empire Stadium in their inaugural match in the old North American Soccer League (NASL). Saturday is also Vancouver's 35th home opener since the club's first season in 1974 and the fifth time they have hosted a Toronto-based club in a home opener. Whitecaps FC have an all-time record of 18W-13L-4D in home openers, having not lost or conceded a goal in one, since 2001.

Saturday's MLS season opener between Whitecaps FC and Toronto FC at Empire Field kicks off at 3:30 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 MLS debut versus Toronto FC can also be seen live across Canada on TSN, with coverage starting at 3 p.m. PT. 'Caps fans can also listen to Saturday's season opener live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 1:30 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match.

MEDIA NOTES - http://club.whitecapsfc.com/files/MN2011/319vantor.pdf

WHITECAPS FC

When Whitecaps FC secured an MLS franchise two years ago, the club used their final two seasons at the North American second division level to build the foundation of their inaugural MLS roster. This has resulted in almost half of Teitur Thordarson's squad moving up from the team that played in the USSF D-2 Pro League last season. The 'Caps build-up included a two-month preseason spell and 11 training matches, with the Blue and White facing some of the top clubs in MLS.

Since arriving in January 2010, the scouting efforts of Whitecaps FC director of soccer operations Tom Soehn has resulted in some exciting talents joining Whitecaps FC from around the world. New captain Jay DeMerit and left fullback Alain Rochat will provide European experience in Vancouver's backline, while fans are keen to see Davide Chiumiento, Gershon Koffie, and Canadian international Terry Dunfield in midfield. Brazilian import Camilo and Designated Player Eric Hassli will look to be among the league's top goalscorers.

Whitecaps FC also made good use of the various MLS player acquisition mechanisms to build their 2011 side. Last November's Expansion Draft yielded some experienced campaigners like goalkeeper Joe Cannon and midfielder John Thorrington. In Atiba Harris, Vancouver acquired a midfielder/striker with experience of last season's MLS Cup final. January's SuperDraft saw the 'Caps surprise many by selecting talented teenager Omar Salgado as the first overall pick, while New Zealand international Michael Boxall has impressed in preseason after being the top pick in this year's Supplemental Draft.

Homegrown talent will also play a role in Vancouver's inaugural MLS season. Whitecaps FC Residency graduates Philippe Davies and Russell Teibert are Canadian youth internationals with huge potential, while Tanzanian international Nizar Khalfan and young goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre provide depth to Thordarson's squad.

Whitecaps FC will be without midfielders Michael Nanchoff (groin), Shea Salinas (knee) and Thorrington (quad) for Saturday's MLS debut match.

TORONTO FC

Entering their fifth season as an MLS club, there has been more change with Toronto FC following a 2010 campaign that ended in The Reds missing the playoffs for a fourth-straight year. After TFC parted ways with head coach Predrag Radosavljević (Preki) and director of soccer Mo Johnston last September, the Southern Ontario outfit took the advice of German legend Jürgen Klinsmann and his 'SoccerSolutions' company to hire former Dutch international Aron Winter as head coach, fellow Dutchman Bob de Klerk as first assistant coach, and former New England Revolution assistant coach Paul Mariner as the club's director of player development in early January.

As students of the Dutch 'Total Football' philosophy, Winter and de Klerk have worked with the squad on their preferred playing style during preseason training spells in Turkey, Florida, and South Carolina. Though they struggled for results this preseason, there is hope among the TFC faithful that the change in soccer management can bring on-field success to BMO Field.

The new regime also needed to bolster their roster with new faces. Dutch trio Elbekay Bouchiba, Javier Martina, and Nick Soolsma have arrived, as has Burnaby, BC, native Gianluca Zavarise and MLS SuperDraft pick Demitrius Omphroy. Alan Gordon joined The Reds last week after TFC traded midfielder Nick LaBrocca to Chivas USA for the striker. Oscar Cordon, Keith Makubuya, Ashtone Morgan, and Matt Stinson have all moved up to the first team from the TFC Academy, while Nathan Sturgis arrived in a trade from Vancouver after Whitecaps FC selected the former Seattle Sounders FC midfielder in last year's Expansion Draft. TFC also added defender Mikael Yourassowsky and MLS SuperDraft pick midfielder Matt Gold to their roster.

Though it is a new-look TFC, captain Dwayne De Rosario and fellow Canadian international Julian de Guzman remain key players for The Reds, while Stefan Frei is one of the league's top goalkeepers. Toronto product Nana Attakora and former Whitecaps FC defender Adrian Cann are expected to anchor TFC's backline in 2011.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Saturday's MLS season opener will be the seventh all-time meeting between Whitecaps FC and Toronto FC, with the previous six meetings coming in the last three editions of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship when Vancouver was a North American second division club. Since 2008, Whitecaps FC have a favourable record of two wins, one defeat, and three draws versus TFC. This includes an undefeated home record of one win and two draws versus The Reds. Whitecaps FC's next encounter with Toronto FC takes place on Wednesday, June 29, at Toronto's BMO Field. However, both clubs could meet before that date, should the 'Caps and TFC reach the two-leg final of this year's Nutrilite Canadian Championship. Both games are set for Wednesday, May 18, and Wednesday, May 25.

HOSTING TORONTO CLUBS

TFC's recent visits to the Lower Mainland makes them the seventh different Toronto-based club to have played in Vancouver in Canadian professional soccer history. Whitecaps FC have a favourable all-time home record against teams from Canada's largest city, having amassed 23 wins, six defeats, and six draws between 1975 and 2010.

In the North American Soccer League days, Vancouver recorded nine wins and four defeats at home to Toronto Metros-Croatia and Toronto Blizzard between 1975 and 1984. The Canadian Soccer League era of 1987 to 1992 saw the club register six wins, one defeat, and two draws against the CSL's Blizzard at Swangard, while in the American Professional Soccer League, the club claimed two home wins over the Blizzard in 1993 and one home victory over Toronto Rockets in 1994.

Between 1998 and 2006, Whitecaps FC hosted former United Soccer Leagues First Division club Toronto Lynx, with Vancouver claiming four wins, one defeat, and two draws.

…THEN OFF TO PHILLY

Following Saturday's season opener, Whitecaps FC will embark on their first away match in MLS when the club travels to Chester, Pennsylvania, to take on MLS Eastern Conference side Philadelphia Union at PPL Park on Saturday, March 26. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. PT and is live on Rogers Sportsnet ONE, TEAM 1410 radio, and teamradio.ca.

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.