Whitecaps FC gear up for top MLS club LA Galaxy on Saturday

'Caps ready to host LA at Empire Field

Pete Vagenas Juninho

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Getty Images

Following a well-deserved extended break, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (2W-10L-9D) return to Major League Soccer action when they host Western Conference leaders LA Galaxy (11W-2L-9D) on Saturday afternoon.

Tom Soehn's squad welcome the best side in MLS to Bell Pitch at Empire Field this weekend, with the Blue and White looking to build on a promising performance at San Jose Earthquakes last week. With a large and passionate crowd expected on the Pacific National Exhibition grounds, the 'Caps are relishing the opportunity to face the league's top guns in their friendly confines. Bruce Arena's side arrive in East Vancouver with some key players missing for this first competitive encounter between Whitecaps FC and the Galaxy.

Saturday's match between Whitecaps FC and LA Galaxy at Empire Field is set for 4:30 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 the club's inaugural MLS season.

Whitecaps FC's home match versus LA Galaxy can also be seen live on TSN and Bell mobile devices at 4:30 p.m. PT. 'Caps fans can also listen to Saturday's 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

Having a week-and-a-half to prepare for Saturday's big clash has been a welcome bonus for Whitecaps FC. For a large part of this inaugural MLS season, Vancouver's busy schedule has denied them a regular opportunity to have a full week of training before a league match, as the 'Caps have played several midweek games in 2011. Having taken a much-needed break last weekend, Soehn's squad have worked all week to formulize their game plan for the visit of the Galaxy. They do so in good spirits after last week's encouraging displays, which earned Soehn and winger Shea Salinas each places in the MLSsoccer.com Team of the Week for Week 19.

After missing a couple of key players in their backline at San Jose, the 'Caps will have left fullback Jordan Harvey available to make his MLS home debut on Saturday. The former Philadelphia Union man returns to the squad after sitting out the Earthquakes draw with a one-match suspension for accumulating five yellow cards this season. Fellow defender Alain Rochat is also available for selection after he missed the San Jose match to be at the birth of his new baby daughter. Soehn, however, will be without youngster Omar Salgado, as the teenage striker is with the United States U-18 national team at the Milk Cup in Northern Ireland. Vancouver also trimmed their squad this week after placing defenders Mouloud Akloul and Blake Wagner on waivers on Thursday.

Whitecaps FC still have injury concerns going into this weekend's game. Striker Atiba Harris is still continuing his recovery from knee surgery he had back in late April, while captain Jay DeMerit (adductor strain) and midfielder John Thorrington (calf) are listed as questionable to face Los Angeles. Youngster Russell Teibert (hip flexor) is listed as probable for Saturday's game.

GALAXY

Undefeated at home and with the best road record in MLS, LA Galaxy have lived up to their much-publicized billing as favourites for the 2011 MLS Cup title. Arena's side have every incentive to reach the final on Sunday, November 20, as this year's match takes place at their home stadium in The Home Depot Center. For now, the Southern California outfit will focus on extending their 13-match unbeaten streak (7W-0L-6D) by getting a result in Vancouver. In fact, LA's last defeat in MLS came on May 1 when the Galaxy fell 2-1 at FC Dallas. LA's other blemishes this term came recently in the Herbalife World Football Challenge, as they lost 4-1 to Spanish giants Real Madrid on July 16, and on penalties to English Premier League giants Manchester City FC last Sunday.

The Galaxy are a star-studded squad with plenty of depth in talent. However, Arena is facing some selection issues for Saturday, as the former United States national team head coach will be without the club's most recognizable player in midfielder David Beckham. The former England captain is suspended after picking up his eighth yellow card of the season in the dying stages of a 1-0 home win over Columbus Crew on July 20. He joins Chris Birchall in sitting out the Vancouver trip, with the Trinidad & Tobago international also suspended. The Galaxy may also be without star midfielder Landon Donovan this weekend. The USA international missed Wednesday's MLS All-Star Game with a strain in his right calf and is questionable to face the 'Caps this weekend. Colombian striker Juan Pablo Angel is also listed as questionable with a calf and Achilles tendon contusion in his left leg. Other injury casualties include first-choice goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, who has a broken arm, as well as defenders Sean Alvarado and Leonardo, who are both sidelined after having knee surgery. Centre back Omar Gonzalez (nose), midfielder Paolo Cardozo (adductor strain), and striker Chad Barrett (knee) are also questionable for the weekend.

Though LA may be depleted for their visit to Canada's west coast, the Galaxy squad is rich in talent and should still provide one of Whitecaps FC's stiffest tests this season. Look for the South American midfield pair of Brazil's Juninho and Argentina's Miguel Lopez to have an impact for the visitors.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

While Saturday's match is the first competitive meeting between Vancouver and Los Angeles, both clubs met twice in preseason at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. The Galaxy defeated Whitecaps FC 2-0 on February 21 before LA repeated that scoreline against Vancouver the following day on February 22. The two clubs also met in the MLS Reserve League on June 20, with the Galaxy reserves beating the 'Caps second string 2-1 at home. Both clubs will meet again in MLS on Saturday, September 17, at The Home Depot Center in Carson, California.

Before this season, Whitecaps FC and the Galaxy faced each other in two recent friendly contests when Vancouver were a North American second division club. On November 7, 2007, a crowd of 48,172 filled BC Place to see the 'Caps draw 0-0 with LA, while on May 13, 2008, Vancouver defeated the Galaxy 2-1 in front of 37,104 fans at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta.

During the North American Soccer League days, Whitecaps FC played Los Angeles Aztecs 19 times between 1974 and 1981. The 'Caps registered 10 wins and nine defeats during that time. This included seven wins and two defeats against the Aztecs at home. Carl Valentine was Whitecaps FC's all-time leading scorer against the Aztecs with four goals, while Bob Lenarduzzi scored two goals against LA during that period.

Saturday's match also sees two Whitecaps FC players in goalkeeper Joe Cannon and midfielder Pete Vagenas face their former club. Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders, meanwhile, played Vancouver during his days in the old United Soccer Leagues First Division.

GATES OPEN EARLY

With the biggest crowd of the season expected for Saturday's match, supporters are advised that the gates at Empire Field will open 90 minutes prior to kickoff at 3 p.m. PT. From 3 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Bell Box on the concourse at Empire Field, there will be a special autograph session involving Whitecaps FC legends Bob Lenarduzzi and Carl Valentine, as well as selected Whitecaps FC players. Come early and take part in all the fun pre-match festivities before Saturday's big game!

FIRE IN VANCOUVER

Following this weekend's home clash with LA Galaxy, Whitecaps FC will host Eastern Conference strugglers Chicago Fire for the first time in club history on Sunday, August 7. Kickoff from Bell Pitch at Empire Field is set for 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).

Whitecaps FC's home match versus Chicago Fire 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 August 7 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.

MLS single match tickets are also available for all of our remaining matches at Empire Field this season, ranging from $20 to $55 (including HST). All tickets are subject to applicable service charges and fees. Fans can purchase these tickets at all Ticketmaster Ticket Centres, online at ticketmaster.ca/whitecaps, or Charge-by-Phone at 1.855.6.GO-CAPS (1.855.646.2277).