VANCOUVER, BC – One week.
That’s how long we have left to wait until Vancouver Whitecaps FC opens its 2014 Major League Soccer campaign against New York Red Bulls March 8 at BC Place.
Players, staff, and fans alike have circled that date in their calendars for quite some time and now it’s just around the corner.
There are no shortage of storylines to choose from, but here are five of them to get you prepped for Vancouver’s much-anticipated season opener.
There’s a new man in charge
Though Carl Robinson spent the last two seasons with Whitecaps FC as an assistant coach, next Saturday’s contest against New York will be his first official one as the ‘Caps manager.
Over the course of the preseason, we’ve seen and heard how Robinson expects his team to play. They will be aggressive with and without the ball, they will pass, and they will play with a “free and open mind” in the final third.
Speaking of Robinson, he will be making his head-coaching debut against his former team. The Welshman spent two seasons with the Red Bulls as a player/assistant coach before joining Whitecaps FC in 2012.
Welcome to Vancouver
Depending on who cracks Robinson’s opening day lineup, Saturday’s season opener could mark the debut of several new Whitecaps FC players.
One of those players is 2012 MLS all-star Steven Beitashour, who the ‘Caps acquired in January to fill the void at right back left after the retirement of Young Pyo-Lee. At the time, Robinson said he believes Beitashour is “arguably the best right back in the league.”
Another is Argentine defensive midfielder Matias Laba, who was acquired this past week from Toronto FC. The 22-year-old is considered to be one of the top young talents in MLS.
As Robinson said last week, “they’re enjoyable to watch.”
Keep the streak(s) alive
There will be two streaks on the line on March 8 at BC Place.
Dating back to 2002, the ‘Caps have gone undefeated in 12 straight home openers, including three wins in the MLS era. Two of those wins came at the expense of Toronto FC and the other was over Montreal Impact.
The other streak Vancouver will be hoping to keep intact is their undefeated run against the Red Bulls – the ‘Caps have not lost to New York in four previous MLS meetings.
Bite the Big Apple
With the current format of the MLS schedule, Vancouver only hosts the Red Bulls once every two years. They won't be back until 2016.
And if you haven’t heard, they’re a pretty good team.
The defending Supporters Shield winners boast two former English Premier League stars in Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry. Neither player has ever played against Whitecaps FC in Vancouver, and although New York hasn’t revealed which players will be making the trip, there’s a first for everything.
Centre of attention
One of Vancouver’s deepest positions is no doubt at centre back, where there are currently five players under contract: Christian Dean, Jay DeMerit, Johnny Leveron, Carlyle Mitchell, and Andy O’Brien.
The latter four have each proved their worth over the last few seasons, while in the preseason Dean has impressed to the point where Robinson said he’s “challenging for a place in the starting lineup.”
Clearly, Robinson has plenty of options to choose from on opening day, but the pair that brought Whitecaps FC to the playoffs in 2012 is DeMerit and O’Brien.
Now, both players are healthy and ready to lead the backline in 2014.
Whitecaps FC begin their 2014 MLS season on March 8 versus New York Red Bulls at BC Place. Season tickets start at just $349 and single-match tickets start at $22, subject to applicable fees. The 'Caps also offer a flexible range of ticket products, including half-season tickets ($244), 5-packs ($149), student season tickets ($199), and a youth soccer half-season ticket ($100). For more information on all Whitecaps FC ticket options, call 604.669.9283 ext. 2 or visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.