Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23 prepare to open 2012 PDL campaign
Friday night will bring the first match of the 2012 United Soccer Leagues (USL) Premier Development League (PDL) season for Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23. The team will hope kick off the season on the right foot against last years’ PDL championship winning side, Kitsap Pumas – the same team they opened their season against last year. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. PT at Swangard Stadium. The match is open to the public and admission is free of charge.
Whitecaps FC will be in search of their first ever victory in the series, with an all-time record of 0W-4L-1D against the Pumas. Kitsap won both matches against the ‘Caps last year, winning the 2011 season opener 2-0 at Empire Field, followed by a 3-0 win in the return match on July 16 at Bremerton Memorial Stadium.
WHITECAPS FC U-23
A host of young Residency players will again play for the ‘Caps PDL squad this season, and with a year of experience under their belt. One notable returning player for the home squad is midfielder Ben Fisk (pictured), who showed great attacking prowess in the latter part of last season. Another player who will likely also see time in the PDL is striker Caleb Clarke, the ‘Caps most recent MLS signing. Though the Richmond, BC, native is now with the first team, he can still be loaned to play matches with Whitecaps FC U-23.
Vancouver can also take comfort in having a host of returning players to the side. 11 collegiate players have been added to the roster, with seven of those players previously part of Whitecaps FC development teams – including no less than four who previously played for the ‘Caps in the PDL.
Whitecaps FC achieved overall positive results in the PDL on home turf last season, finishing with a 5W-2L-1D record in their eight home matches, with the lone game at Swangard seeing the ‘Caps come away with a 2-0 victory against North Sound SeaWolves.
As one of the few professional teams in the PDL, Kitsap come into their opening match with a great feeling of momentum following their PDL championship success last season. In defence, the returning champs will look to Taylor Hyde and Steve Mohn once again, as the duo played crucial roles in their 12 clean sheets last season, not to mention the man between the pipes, goalkeeper Zac Lubin. In midfield, Matt Friesen and Kyle Johnson will also make their return after a combined total of nine goals and three assists last season.
“We expect a high level of football from them,” said Pumas head coach James Ritchie. “We think it'll be an exciting year.”
The Pumas will be hoping to replicate the 11-match unbeaten run that they had to start last season, which got them off to a fantastic start and ultimately propelled them to a lengthy playoff run that saw them become champions of the 64-team PDL.
Following their season opener, Whitecaps FC U-23 play their first ever match against newfound Cascadia rivals Seattle Sounders FC U-23 next Friday, May 11, again at Swangard Stadium. Kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m. PT.