Whitecaps FC play first road match of 2012 at Chivas USA

Whitecaps FC visit Chivas USA on Saturday evening

Eric Hassli Chivas USA The Home Depot Center

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Coming off a positive start to their 2012 Major League Soccer campaign, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (1W-0L-0D) embark on their first road trip of the season, as they head to Southern California to take on Western Conference rivals Chivas USA (0W-1L-0D) on Saturday evening.

After making a successful debut to his career as an MLS head coach last weekend, Martin Rennie prepares for his first-ever away match in the North American top flight, with Whitecaps FC looking to claim their first away win as an MLS club this weekend. They visit a Chivas USA side that are looking to bounce back from a home defeat to Eastern Conference club Houston Dynamo last Sunday.

Saturday's match between Whitecaps FC and Chivas USA from The Home Depot Center in Carson, California, kicks off at 7:30 p.m. PT and is live on Sportsnet Pacific and West, as well as Bell mobile devices. 'Caps fans can also listen to Saturday evening’s match 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, which will begin following the match.

WHITECAPS FC

Making a good start to the new season was a building block that Whitecaps FC wanted to achieve in their quest for a successful sophomore season in MLS. Last Saturday’s 2-0 home win over expansion club Montreal Impact was satisfying in that it came against a Canadian rival and provided Rennie’s side with a boost of confidence for the campaign to come. And yet, as exciting and positive the Impact victory was, there has been a measured response to the Montreal win from the Blue and White, with the squad fully aware of the many battles that lie ahead.

Continued improvement is the current focus for Rennie’s side. The ‘Caps lived up to expectations on the goalscoring front last weekend, with the second goal against Montreal offering a glimpse into the attacking chemistry that exists in the squad. To see Camilo Sanvezzo score from such a fluid attacking move that involved Sebastien Le Toux, Eric Hassli, and Davide Chiumiento was encouraging, as it was exciting. Coupled with an equal determination to earn clean sheets defensively, as was achieved against the Impact, the possibilities for an improved road record in the league look bright.

Though it is Week Two, Saturday’s visit to Chivas USA also provides an opportunity for the ‘Caps to establish themselves in what is shaping up to be a very competitive Western Conference. Rennie knows that winning away from Bell Pitch at BC Place is an essential piece to making Vancouver a playoff side in 2012, and the Scotsman is keen to establish Vancouver’s road form with a result against The Goats.

Whitecaps FC will be without goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre (knee), midfielders Michael Nanchoff (heel) and John Thorrington (quad), as well as striker Etienne Barbara (groin) for the weekend trip to Southern California. Striker Atiba Harris (knee) is listed as questionable. Midfielders Bryce Alderson and Russell Teibert are away on international duty with Canada’s U-23 Olympic team.

CHIVAS USA

Heading into his second season as Chivas USA head coach, Robin Fraser is looking to take the Rojiblancos back to the MLS Cup Playoffs after missing out on the postseason during his first year in charge in 2011. Their 2012 MLS campaign did not get off to the best of starts, as Chivas USA fell to a very late 1-0 home defeat versus Houston.

The Goats last made the playoffs in 2009, and last season’s shortcomings prompted changes. Over a third of Fraser’s squad has been replaced for the new season, with Chivas USA bringing in league experience in the form of ex-Whitecaps FC midfielder Peter Vagenas and former Seattle Sounders FC defender James Riley. Fraser also acquired three South American imports in Colombian defender John Valencia and Ecuadorian midfielders Miller Bolaños and Oswaldo Minda, while University of Maryland striker Casey Townsend was the fifth overall selection in this year’s MLS SuperDraft.

Key players for Chivas USA include goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, Canadian international Ante Jazic, French midfielder Laurent Courtois, and highly experienced striker Juan Pablo Angel. The well-travelled Colombian previously played for MLS sides New York Red Bulls and LA Galaxy, as well as Argentine giants Club Atlético River Plate and English Premier League side Aston Villa FC.

Chivas USA are without defender Michael Lahoud (hamstring) and midfielder Marvin Iraheta (knee) for Saturday’s game against Vancouver, while midfielder Blair Gavin (hamstring) and Venezuelan striker Alejandro Moreno (nose) are listed as doubtful. Valencia (quad) is listed as probable. Angel (head contusion) is listed as questionable for the weekend match. Left fullback Jorge Villafaña is away on international duty with the United States U-23 Olympic team.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Whitecaps FC and Chivas USA met twice during Vancouver’s inaugural MLS season last year. On April 16, 2011, both clubs battled to a goalless draw at Empire Field before settling for another stalemate at The Home Depot Center on June 1, 2011. In what was Tom Soehn’s first match as ‘Caps interim head coach, Camilo cancelled out Nick LaBrocca's opening goal for The Goats in a 1-1 draw. The ‘Caps finished the match with ten men after Hassli was sent off in the second half. Both clubs also met in a preseason friendly in Casa Grande, Arizona, on February 18, 2011. Whitecaps FC suffered a late 1-0 defeat to the Southern California outfit after a last-minute strike by Jesús Padilla.

While there is not much history between the two clubs, there are many ties between both sets of players. Harris spent two seasons with Chivas USA and was a teammate of Goats defender Heath Pearce at FC Dallas. Youngster Omar Salgado was in the youth system of Chivas USA’s parent club – Mexican giants Club Deportivo (Chivas) Guadalajara. Vagenas made 16 appearances for Whitecaps FC during their inaugural MLS season of 2011, while the midfielder, Riley, and Le Toux all played together for Seattle during their inaugural MLS season of 2009. Moreno was a Vancouver selection in the 2010 MLS Expansion Draft before he was traded to The Goats. The South American was also teammates with Le Toux, Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Brad Knighton, and left fullback Jordan Harvey during Philadelphia Union’s inaugural MLS season of 2010. Harvey and LaBrocca, meanwhile, were teammates at Colorado Rapids. Nanchoff played with Gavin and Ben Zemanski at the University of Akron.

As Western Conference opponents, Whitecaps and Chivas USA will meet two more times this season. Vancouver return to The Home Depot Center to face The Goats on Saturday, July 7, before hosting the Southern California outfit at BC Place on Wednesday, October 3.

MONDAY RESERVES MATCH POSTPONED

Whitecaps FC’s 2012 MLS Reserve League match away to LA Galaxy reserves on Monday, March 19, has been postponed and will be played at a later date.

…THEN HOME TO UNITED

Following the club’s first away trip of the season, Whitecaps FC return to Vancouver to host another Eastern Conference opponent, as D.C. United pay a visit to BC Place on Saturday, March 24, at 7 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 Whitecaps FC tickets.

Whitecaps FC's home match versus D.C. United can also be seen live on Sportsnet Pacific and Bell mobile devices at 7 p.m. PT. 'Caps fans can also listen to the March 24 match live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 5 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match at around 9 p.m. PT.

Whitecaps FC 2012 Major League Soccer season tickets start at $329, plus applicable tax and a $10 processing fee per order. To secure a seat and for additional information about Whitecaps FC MLS season tickets, including loge seats and suites, call 604.669.9283 or visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.