Whitecaps FC travel to Utah for first Major League Soccer meeting with Real Salt Lake
In the midst of a three-match road spell, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (1W-5L-7D) go in search of their first away win in Major League Soccer when they face Western Conference rivals Real Salt Lake (5W-2L-2D) on Saturday evening.
Wednesday night saw the start of the Tom Soehn era for the 'Caps, with Vancouver left frustrated by a 1-1 draw at Chivas USA in Southern California. Whitecaps FC created plenty of chances to win the match at The Home Depot Center, but instead, had to settle for a point on the road after finishing the midweek contest with 10 men following the sending off of Eric Hassli. They meet a Salt Lake side that are winless in their last three league matches and had a long-standing unbeaten streak at their Rio Tinto Stadium home come to an end last weekend.
Saturday's match between Whitecaps FC and Real Salt Lake from Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, kicks off at 6 p.m. PT and is live on Citytv Vancouver (Bell TV - channel 253; Shaw Cable - SD channel 13, HD channel 214; Shaw Direct - channel 359; Telus TV - SD channel 13, HD channel 614) and Bell mobile devices. 'Caps fans can also listen to Saturday's contest live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 4 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match.
Following the well-publicized coaching change on Monday, Soehn's imprint on the starting XI against Chivas USA was notable after the former D.C. United head coach made four changes and a tactical switch in Carson, California. This included MLS debuts for right fullback Bilal Duckett and central midfielder Alexandre Morfaw, who performed well in the draw versus The Goats. It was a match in which the 'Caps created many fine opportunities to turn the stalemate into an invaluable away win. The down side from Wednesday's events was the red card issued to Hassli for his late challenge on Chivas USA's Ben Zemanski. It was the striker's third sending off of the season and will rule the big Frenchman out of Saturday's game in Utah.
Hassli is not the only Whitecaps FC player to miss the clash with RSL, as Whitecaps FC remain without three players through international duty. Terry Dunfield is with the Canadian national team ahead of this month's CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament in the United States. On Wednesday, the midfielder made a huge impact in Wednesday's 2-2 friendly draw versus Ecuador, as he scored a sensational first goal for his country at Toronto's BMO Field. Centre back Michael Boxall is with the New Zealand national team, having played the first half of his country's 3-0 friendly defeat to Mexico in Denver, Colorado. Boxall and the All Whites meet arch-rivals Australia in a friendly on Sunday. Winger Nizar Khalfan, meanwhile, is preparing for Tanzania's important 2012 Africa Cup of Nations Group D qualifier away to Central African Republic on Sunday.
REAL SALT LAKE
Considered one of the favourites for the MLS Cup title this season, Real Salt Lake have hit a bumpy spell following their impressive run to the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) final. Jason Kreis' side had the backing of everyone in MLS and North American soccer with their CCL run, although it ended in disappointment at the final hurdle. With their concentration back on the MLS regular season, RSL have registered just one win in their last five league contests. Last Saturday, the club saw their remarkable home unbeaten streak in the league end at 29 matches after Saturday's 2-1 defeat to Seattle Sounders FC at Rio Tinto Stadium.
RSL come into Saturday's match without the services of several key players. Arturo Alvarez (El Salvador), Will Johnson (Canada), and Álvaro Saborío (Costa Rica) are all on CONCACAF Gold Cup duty with their respective nations, while Colombian defender Jamison Olave is suspended following his sending off for a professional foul versus Seattle last weekend.
Kreis is also without talented midfielder Javier Morales (ankle fracture dislocation) and striker Paulo Araujo Jr. (hip flexor strain) for the maiden visit of Vancouver, while forward Donny Toia (ankle) is questionable to face the 'Caps. Midfielders Jean Alexandre and Collen Warner (both ankle), as well as Fabian Espíndola (hamstring), are listed as probable.
Saturday's match will be the first competitive meeting between Whitecaps FC and Real Salt Lake, though both sides have met before in preseason friendly action in Casa Grande, Arizona. As a USSF D-2 Pro League side, the 'Caps defeated RSL 2-1 at Grande Sports World on February 20, 2010. As an MLS outfit this preseason, goals by Dunfield and Russell Teibert earned Vancouver a 2-1 victory over Salt Lake at Grande Sports World on February 1. After this weekend's contest in Utah, both clubs will meet again at Empire Field on Saturday, July 16.
While there is limited playing history between the two clubs, both squads have connections to Saturday's opponents. Soehn and Kreis were teammates at FC Dallas (then known as Dallas Burn) from 1996 to 1998. 'Caps goalkeeper Jay Nolly started his professional career in Salt Lake before being acquired by Soehn at D.C. United along with allocation and future considerations in exchange for RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando and USA international Freddy Adu. RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy played with Pete Vagenas at LA Galaxy, while RSL's Araujo, Jean Alexandre, and Tim Melia all played against Vancouver at the North American second division level. From 2005 to 2010, Whitecaps FC head athletic trainer Jake Joachim was a member of the staff at Salt Lake.
NEXT UP: THE EMERALD CITY
Following Saturday's match at Real Salt Lake, Whitecaps FC will prepare for their first Cascadia Cup derby match as an MLS club, as they travel down Interstate 5 to take on Pacific Northwest rivals Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday, June 11. Kickoff from Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington, is set for 7:30 p.m. PT and is live on TSN 2 and Bell mobile devices. 'Caps fans can also listen to the June 11 contest live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 5:30 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show.
Whitecaps FC fans also have the option of purchasing two exciting new match packs. Starting at just $159, the match pack options - GOING HOLLYWOOD and LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR? - both include the Manchester City FC friendly match, valued at $60, and four coveted MLS matches. Aside from season tickets, which also include the Manchester City game, match packs are currently the only way to secure a ticket to the July 18 international friendly. For additional information on match packs, visit whitecapsfc.com/matchpacks.