Whitecaps FC back in MLS action at Columbus Crew this weekend

'Caps make first trip to Ohio state capital

Michael Boxall Eddie Gaven Columbus Crew

Photo Credit: 
Bob Frid & Getty Images

Fresh off a confidence-boosting win in this year's Nutrilite Canadian Championship, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (1W-3L-3D) return to Major League Soccer action when they visit Eastern Conference side Columbus Crew (2W-1L-3D) on Saturday evening.

Teitur Thordarson's side registered their second win of the season with a 1-0 victory over 2012 MLS expansion club Montreal Impact in the first leg of their NCC semifinal series. The midweek result in Quebec was also the club's first win away from home in 2011 and will provide inspiration for the Blue and White, as they look to end their league run of six matches without a victory. The 'Caps meet a Crew side that have gone unbeaten in their last five games after losing their MLS season opener to D.C. United. Both Vancouver and Columbus met in preseason on February 8, with the 'Caps winning the friendly 2-1 on second-half goals by substitutes Atiba Harris and Omar Salgado at the Reach 11 Sports Complex in Phoenix, Arizona.

MEDIA NOTES - http://club.whitecapsfc.com/files/MN2011/430clbvan.pdf

Saturday's match between Whitecaps FC and Columbus Crew from Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, kicks off at 4:30 p.m. PT and is live on Rogers Sportsnet ONE and Bell mobile devices. 'Caps fans can also listen to the April 30 contest live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 2:30 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match at around 6:30 p.m. PT.

WHITECAPS FC

Nothing gives a team confidence more than a victory. After enduring a lean run of results in the league, Whitecaps FC provided themselves the perfect tonic with Wednesday's win over Montreal. Though they may have played lower-division opposition in the Impact, achieving a win away from home is sure to provide Thordarson's squad the belief that a first away result in MLS will occur this weekend.

Yet, Vancouver's trip to the Ohio state capital is not without its challenges, as Whitecaps FC will be without striker Eric Hassli for the third time this season through suspension after the big Frenchman picked up his fifth yellow card in last Saturday's 2-1 home defeat to FC Dallas. With Harris undergoing successful knee surgery this week, Thordarson will be assessing his striking options carefully for Saturday's game. The good news for the Icelandic coach is his midfield has been boosted by the return of youngster Gershon Koffie from international duty with Ghana's U-20 national team and Thursday's signing of experienced MLS campaigner Peter Vagenas. The native of Pasadena, California, has previously played for Western Conference rivals Los Angeles Galaxy and Seattle Sounders FC.

Along with the injured Harris and suspended Hassli, Whitecaps FC are still without the services of captain Jay DeMerit (groin), plus midfielders Michael Nanchoff (groin) and John Thorrington (quad) for the weekend match with Columbus.

CREW

With a proud history as an original MLS club, Columbus remain focused on being one of the top teams in the league. Now in their 16th season, the Crew have shown their pedigree by winning three MLS Supporters' Shield titles as regular season champions and an MLS Cup title in 2008. This season started in disappointing fashion for Robert Warzycha's side, as Columbus lost 4-1 on aggregate to MLS rivals Real Salt Lake in the quarterfinals of the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League. However, after losing their MLS season opener to D.C. United, the Crew registered two wins and three draws in their last five matches to sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings.

Heading into Saturday's match, Warzycha boosted his midfield ranks with the signing of Argentine import Santiago Prim on Tuesday. He joins a Crew side that includes experienced players like goalkeeper William Hesmer, midfielder Eddie Gaven, and attackers Emilio Renteria and Robbie Rogers. With quite a bit turnover occurring in the offseason in the Ohio state capital, the new faces to arrive in Columbus this season include the former Toronto FC pair of defender Julius James and striker Jeff Cunningham, as well as former Carolina RailHawks forward Tom Heinemann.

The Crew will be without defender Josh Williams (hip) and midfielder Danny O'Rourke (knee) for the visit of Vancouver. Jamaican international Shaun Francis was back in training this week after suffering a torn hamstring in preseason, but he is unlikely to appear versus the 'Caps.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Saturday's match is the first competitive meeting between Whitecaps FC and Columbus Crew. Both clubs will also meet on Bell Pitch at Empire Field on Wednesday, July 6.

The 'Caps have a very good history of playing against clubs from the state of Ohio, having registered an undefeated overall record of 6W-0L-2D. This includes a 2W-0L-2D record in Ohio during Vancouver's United Soccer Leagues First Division (USL-1) days.

Between 1999 and 2003, Whitecaps FC registered five wins, no defeats, and no draws versus the now-defunct Cincinnati Riverhawks, having outscored them 11 goals to one in the process. In the 2009 USL-1 campaign, Vancouver registered a home victory and two away draws in their three league meetings with the now-defunct Cleveland City Stars.

THEN HOME TO MONTREAL…

Following this weekend's MLS match in Columbus, Whitecaps FC return home to prepare for the second leg of their 2011 Nutrilite Canadian Championship semifinal series, as they host North American Soccer League side Montreal Impact on Bell Pitch at Empire Field next Wednesday evening at 8 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).

Wednesday's NCC match versus Montreal can also be seen live on Rogers Sportsnet ONE and sportsnet.ca. 'Caps fans can also listen to the May 4 second leg live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca.

Whitecaps FC Major League Soccer 2011 season tickets are available at a pro-rated price, starting at $235. 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.