Whitecaps FC conclude extended road spell at Chicago Fire

'Caps meet Chicago in lone regular season clash on Saturday

Chicago Fire vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC

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Wrapping up an extended run of five matches on the road, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (8W-5L-6D) head to ‘The Windy City’ for their lone Major League Soccer meeting versus Eastern Conference club Chicago Fire (8W-6L-4D) on Saturday evening.

Coming off a heartbreaking defeat at Canadian rivals Toronto FC on Wednesday night, Martin Rennie’s side will look to use the short turnaround and bounce back by earning an important road result at Toyota Park. Whitecaps FC meet a Fire side that are also looking to bounce back from a loss last weekend and maintain their push towards the summit of the MLS Eastern Conference standings.

Whitecaps FC versus Chicago Fire from Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, kicks off at 5:30 p.m. PT and can be seen live on Sportsnet Pacific and Bell mobile devices. 'Caps fans can also listen to Saturday’s match live on TEAM 1040 radio (change from TEAM 1410) and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 3:30 p.m. PT. TEAM 1040 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match at around 7:30 p.m. PT. Fans can also follow Saturday’s match on Twitter @WhitecapsMatch.

WHITECAPS FC

All seasons have setbacks for clubs in soccer, and it is no different for Whitecaps FC. Wednesday was another stinging experience at Toronto’s BMO Field for the Blue and White, as Rennie’s side were on the wrong end of another result versus TFC this season. Any opportunity to address that with The Reds will have to wait for next season, with the focus now on bouncing back again and claiming a result in Chicago to conclude this extended road spell. The ‘Caps have made a good habit of bouncing back this season, having responded positively to setbacks on four separate occasions.

One player that could be a catalyst to earning a result at Toyota Park is youngster Darren Mattocks. The young Jamaican has received plenty of attention in the past few days for his spectacular second goal against The Reds at BMO Field. Mattocks’ athletic ability to leap so high above his TFC markers made highlights reels everywhere. It will be interesting to see if the former University of Akron star may get a start alongside Eric Hassli on Saturday. The big Frenchman is available to face the Fire after missing the 3-2 defeat at TFC through suspension for caution accumulation.

There will also be a new face available in Chicago on Saturday. On Friday, Whitecaps FC acquired Jamaican international midfielder Dane Richards, as well as allocation money, from New York Red Bulls in exchange for striker Sebastien Le Toux.

Whitecaps FC will be without striker Atiba Harris until mid-summer after he underwent a successful operation to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee on May 25. Striker Omar Salgado will be out of action for most of the summer after suffering a right foot fracture, while on international duty with the United States U-20 squad in Uruguay last month. Two players are listed as doubtful. Midfielder John Thorrington suffered a quad strain against LA Galaxy on June 23, while Matt Watson is nursing a sprain in his right ankle.

FIRE

Stocked with pacey attackers and creative attacking midfielders, Chicago are in a prime position to close the gap on the frontrunners in the Eastern Conference. Only five points separate the Fire from top spot in the east, and after last weekend’s 2-0 home defeat to LA Galaxy ended a four-match unbeaten run, Frank Klopas’ side will want to get back on track this Saturday before making an important trip to New York Red Bulls on Wednesday.

In speedy striker Dominic Oduro and talented Guatemalan international Marco Pappa, Chicago have two players that share the Fire’s scoring lead with five goals. Though Klopas will be without Chicago assist leader Sebastian Grazzini, he has some quality attacking options for the visit of Vancouver. Mexican legend Pavel Pardo is a vastly experienced midfielder, while Ghanaian winger Patrick Nyarko is another pacey threat. The return of striker Chris Rolfe from a spell in Denmark with Aalborg Boldspilklub is another boost, as is the arrival of former German international Arne Friedrich. The 33-year-old centre back brings valuable experience to Chicago’s young defensive corps. Chicago also have an emerging MLS shot-stopper in young goalkeeper Sean Johnson. The 23-year-old has started every Fire match in MLS since mid-April.

Chicago will be without defender Cory Gibbs (knee) and midfielder Steven Kinney (Achilles tendinitis) for Saturday’s match versus Vancouver.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Saturday’s match is the third MLS meeting between Whitecaps FC and Chicago Fire, with the first two match-ups taking place during Vancouver’s inaugural MLS season last year. On May 7, 2011, both clubs played to a goalless draw at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, before Whitecaps FC defeated Chicago 4-2 at Empire Field on August 7, 2011. Two goals by Hassli set the ‘Caps on their way to victory in East Vancouver, BC, with Gershon Koffie and Camilo Sanvezzo also finding the scoresheet that day. Dominic Oduro and Orr Barouch replied for the Fire.

Before 2011, the last time Whitecaps FC played a team from ‘The Windy City’ was in the old North American Soccer League (NASL). Between 1975 and 1984, Vancouver faced Chicago Sting 16 times, with the 'Caps registering a 9W-7L record during that time. This included an all-time record of 4W-4L versus the Sting in Chicago. Among those matches were Vancouver's final three games in the old NASL. Both Whitecaps FC and the Sting met in the playoff semifinals in 1984, with Chicago winning the best-of-three series two games to one.

There are several connections between Whitecaps FC and the Fire. A native of Chicago, ‘Caps director of soccer operations Tom Soehn enjoyed a successful playing career with the Fire. He led the club to MLS Cup and Lamar Hunt US Open Cup success in the club's first season of existence in 1998 before helping Chicago to another US Open Cup title in 2000. From 2001 to 2003, Soehn served as Chicago's assistant coach.

Before joining Whitecaps FC, Thorrington spent six seasons (2005 - 2010) as a member of the Fire, while captain Jay DeMerit played the 2001 United Soccer Leagues (USL) Premier Development League season with Chicago Fire Premier and had a stellar four-year NCAA Division I career with the University of Illinois at Chicago. Raised in Rockford, Illinois, defender/midfielder Greg Klazura was a member of the Chicago Fire’s USL Super-20 squad that won the North American championship title in 2008.

Included in this season’s Fire squad is former Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Jay Nolly, who enjoyed a fine spell with the Blue and White from 2008 to 2011. He led the ‘Caps to the USL First Division championship title in 2008 and was the 2010 United States Soccer Federation Division-2 Professional League Goalkeeper of the Year. Whitecaps FC’s Most Valuable Player in 2009 and 2010, Nolly holds the club record for most shutouts in a single season (2010) with 14 (18 in all competitions), as well as holding the ‘Caps ironman record after playing 6,472 consecutive minutes over three seasons for Vancouver.

…THEN HOME TO LA GALAXY

Following Saturday’s match in Chicago, Whitecaps FC return home for the first of two matches on Bell Pitch at BC Place next week, starting with a second regular season clash versus defending MLS Cup champions LA Galaxy on Wednesday night. Kickoff from BC Place is set for 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 LA Galaxy can also be seen live on TSN2 and Bell mobile devices at 7 p.m. PT. 'Caps fans can also listen to Wednesday’s 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. Fans can also follow Wednesday’s match on Twitter @WhitecapsMatch.

Customize your Whitecaps FC experience with our 2012 Flex Pack! Starting at $199, Flex Packs include six match tickets in the Aqua, Yellow, or Purple sections at BC Place, and can be used for any MLS regular season home match this season. Offering savings over single match ticket purchases, Flex Packs offer supporters the ability to use any ticket quantity combination. For example, bring six friends to one match or attend three matches with a friend - it’s up to you how you use your Flex Pack! To purchase your Flex Pack, call 604.669.9283 ext. 3, or email sales@whitecapsfc.com. For additional information on our new Whitecaps FC Flex Pack, visit whitecapsfc.com/flex-packs.