Let the games begin: Whitecaps FC set to kick off 2014 MLS season against New York Red Bulls

First Kick set for Saturday at 4:30 p.m. PT at BC Place

VANCOUVER, BC – The wait is finally over.

After an eventful offseason, Vancouver Whitecaps FC will kick off the 2014 Major League Soccer regular season this Saturday, March 8 against the defending Supporters Shield-winning New York Red Bulls at BC Place.

Kickoff for Saturday’s match between Vancouver and New York is set for 4:30 p.m. PT. You can watch the match live on TSN and Bell mobile devices or tune into Team 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 2:30 p.m. PT. Team 1410 will have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match.

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC

Highlights from Whitecaps FC's final preseason match

The Blue and White enter Saturday’s season opener undefeated in four preseason matches, after concluding the Rose City Invitational as the top team with a 2W-0L-1D record.

A successful showing at the tournament, combined with new head coach Carl Robinson’s desire to play an attacking style and several new faces has created a sense of optimism and excitement heading into MLS First Kick.

Among the players who could make their Whitecaps FC regular season debuts on Saturday are right back Steven Beitashour, Uruguayan mifielders Sebastian Fernandez, and Nicolas Mezquida, and Designated Players Matias Laba and Pedro Morales

Aside from Morales, who was just acquired on Wednesday, each of those players appeared for Whitecaps FC during the preseason. Fernandez and Mezquida had a goal apiece, but Beitashour and Laba also looked promising – as did centre back Christian Dean, Vancouver’s first selection in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft.

Beitashour and striker Darren Mattocks, who scored a goal in each of his final two preseason appearances and an additional three in two matches with Jamaica, are slated to return to Vancouver on Thursday from international duty with their respective countries. And Robinson said that he’s hopeful both players will be available for selection against the Red Bulls. 

The 'Caps manager also said "it would be nice to have Morales involved at some stage" on Saturday. 

The only player unavailable for Saturday’s match is midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy, who continues to rehab from a torn ACL in his left knee suffered on August 30, 2013.

Also of note, Whitecaps FC have won each of their previous three season openers in MLS and have not lost a season opener since 2001.

NEW YORK RED BULLS

Highlights from New York's final preseason match

The defending Supporters Shield winners enter the 2014 MLS season once again as one of the league’s MLS Cup favourites.

Last year, the Red Bulls were knocked out of contention by Houston Dynamo in the Eastern Conference semifinals, but they have not lost a regular season match since August 25, 2013.

Entering his second season as the Red Bulls head coach, Mike Petke has essentially kept together the squad that concluded the 2013 regular season with a 6W-0L-2D record – a squad that includes former English Premier League stars Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill, who just returned from international duty.

The squad also includes former ‘Caps midfielder Johnny Steele and 26-year-old midfielder Dax McCarty, who Robinson singled out as one of New York’s most important players in midfield.

New York posted a 3W-1L-1D record in preseason competition, after playing to a 4-4 draw with USL PRO side Orlando City SC March 1 in their preseason finale.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Saturday’s contest will be the fifth all-time meeting between Whitecaps FC and the Red Bulls. To date, the ‘Caps have gone undefeated against the New York outfit, posting a 1W-0L-3D record.

Last season, Whitecaps FC claimed their first-ever win over New York, as Jordan Harvey and Kenny Miller scored a pair of second-half goals in a 2-1 comeback win at Red Bull Arena.

This will be the lone meeting between Vancouver and New York this season. With the current format of the MLS schedule, Whitecaps FC only host the Red Bulls once every two years – meaning they won’t be back in Vancouver until 2016.

NEXT UP

Following Saturday’s season opener, the ‘Caps will embark on a mini two-match road-trip. They will visit Chivas USA on Sunday, March 16 at 4:30 p.m. PT and New England Revolution on Saturday, March 22 at 11 a.m. PT, before returning to BC Place to host Houston Dynamo on March 29.

The ‘Caps will honour retired defender Young Pyo-Lee prior to the March 29 match. 

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.