Whitecaps FC set for first clash of 2012 with Real Salt Lake

'Caps travel to meet Real Salt Lake on Friday night

Wrapping up a very busy month of July, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (9W-6L-7D) travel to Utah for their first meeting of the Major League Soccer regular season versus Western Conference rivals Real Salt Lake (12W-7L-3D) on Friday evening.

Buoyed by last weekend’s important home victory over top MLS club San Jose Earthquakes, Martin Rennie’s side have the opportunity to close the gap between themselves and second-place Salt Lake in the Western Conference standings. The ‘Caps meet an RSL side that are undefeated in their last three matches and considered strong contenders for the MLS Cup title in 2012.

Whitecaps FC versus Real Salt Lake from Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, kicks off at 6 p.m. PT and can be seen live on Citytv Vancouver (Bell TV - channel 253; Shaw Cable - SD channel 13, HD channel 214; Shaw Direct - channel 359 (Classic) and 6 (Advanced); Telus Optik TV - SD channel 13, HD channel 614; Novus Entertainment – SD channel 13, HD channel 173; Delta Cable - SD channel 13, HD channel 604; Coast Cable – channel 13) and Bell mobile devices. 'Caps fans can also listen to Friday’s match 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 at around 8 p.m. PT. Fans can also follow Friday’s match on Twitter @WhitecapsMatch.

WHITECAPS FC

The 2012 season has proven to be a campaign of opportunity for Whitecaps FC, with every match offering Rennie’s side the chance to achieve new marks as an MLS club. Heading into the Salt Lake match, the ‘Caps are firmly focused on pulling closer to RSL and conference leaders San Jose, especially after last weekend’s 2-1 victory over the Earthquakes. The new faces that have arrived in Vancouver this month played their part in Sunday’s win and will be keen to make an impact at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Dane Richards and Barry Robson drew much of the attention from Whitecaps FC supporters after their fine performances last weekend, while latest Designated Player signing Kenny Miller will be looking for more playing minutes in what would be his first away match in MLS, should he appear against RSL on Friday. There may also be a first-team appearance from Atiba Harris after the former Salt Lake man played 45 minutes in Monday’s reserve match. It remains to be seen if captain Jay DeMerit will play a second match in 48 hours after the centre back put in a highly acclaimed 90-minute performance for the MLS All-Stars on Wednesday night, as they defeated UEFA Champions League holders Chelsea FC 3-2 at PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania.

Whitecaps FC will be without two players for Friday’s match. 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. Midfielder John Thorrington is questionable after suffering a quad strain at LA Galaxy on June 23.

SALT LAKE

Talented and experienced from back to front, Real Salt Lake remain one of the clubs to beat in MLS. Coming into Friday’s contest, the Claret and Cobalt’s form since early June has been indifferent, though RSL were able to claim a sixth-straight Rocky Mountain Cup title versus Colorado Rapids last weekend. Things will start to get busy for Jason Kreis’ side, as RSL will travel to Central America next week to begin their 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League campaign at Costa Rica’s Club Sport Herediano next Tuesday night. Salt Lake were drawn in Group Two, where they will also play Panama’s Tauro FC.

RSL’s squad includes a potent strike force. Costa Rican international Alvaro Saborio sits third in MLS with 11 goals so far this season, while strike partner Fabian Espindola has registered six goals and four assists in 2012. An MLS All-Star, Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman has also contributed with four goals and four assists this season. Solid defensively, RSL are also led by the vastly experienced goalkeeper Nick Rimando.

Salt Lake will be without goalkeeper Lalo Fernandez (wrist) and defender Chris Schuler (foot) for Friday’s match. Centre back Jamison Olave (hamstring) is listed as questionable, while Espindola (ankle), defender Nat Borchers (quad), and midfielder Ned Grabavoy (knee) are listed as probable. Former Whitecaps FC midfielder Jonny Steele is suspended because of caution accumulation.   

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Friday’s match is the third MLS meeting between Whitecaps FC and Salt Lake, with the first two matches taking place in 2011. The inaugural league took place on June 4, 2011, with RSL defeating Whitecaps FC 2-0 in Sandy, Utah. In what was ‘Caps director of soccer Tom Soehn's second match as interim head coach, RSL took all three points with a first-half goal from Jean Alexandre and a second-half strike from Espindola at Rio Tinto Stadium. Whitecaps FC avenged that defeat in a rescheduled match on October 6, 2011, as they defeated Salt Lake 3-0 in downtown Vancouver. Two penalties by Camilo Sanvezzo and a late strike by Nizar Khalfan earned Whitecaps FC their first MLS victory at BC Place.

Before 2011, both Vancouver and Salt Lake met in preseason friendly action in Casa Grande, Arizona. As a USSF D-2 Pro League side, Whitecaps FC defeated RSL 2-1 at Grande Sports World on February 20, 2010. As an MLS outfit, goals by Russell Teibert and former ‘Caps midfielder Terry Dunfield earned Vancouver a 2-1 victory over Salt Lake at Grande Sports World on February 1, 2011. This preseason, Whitecaps FC drew 1-1 with RSL at Grande Sports World on February 10. Darren Mattocks gave Vancouver the lead before Espindola equalized from the penalty spot in the preseason friendly.

There are several connections between both sets of players. In 2006, Harris became the first player from Saint Kitts & Nevis to sign with Major League Soccer when he joined Salt Lake. From 1996 to 1998, Soehn and Kreis were teammates at Dallas Burn (now FC Dallas). During that time, the pair won the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup in 1997. Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Joe Cannon was teammates with the Salt Lake trio of Beckerman, Borchers, and Chris Wingert at Colorado Rapids.

As members of the MLS Western Conference, Friday’s match is the first of three regular season meetings between Whitecaps FC and Salt Lake in 2012. Vancouver will host the Utah-based outfit at BC Place on Saturday, August 11, before meeting Salt Lake in their final regular season match at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday, October 27.

SALT LAKE RE-MATCH

Friday’s clash with RSL is the first of two consecutive league matches versus the Utah-based outfit for Whitecaps FC. To begin the month of August, Vancouver will host RSL at BC Place on Saturday, August 11, at 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). CLICK HERE for more information on Whitecaps FC tickets.

Whitecaps FC's home match versus Real Salt Lake can also be seen live on Citytv Vancouver (Bell TV - channel 253; Shaw Cable - SD channel 13, HD channel 214; Shaw Direct - channel 359 (Classic) and 6 (Advanced); Telus Optik TV - SD channel 13, HD channel 614; Novus Entertainment – SD channel 13, HD channel 173; Delta Cable - SD channel 13, HD channel 604; Coast Cable – channel 13) and Bell mobile devices at 4 p.m. PT. 'Caps fans can also listen August 11 match 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. Fans can also follow the August 11 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.