Forgotten Stories: Over the Moon
A few small steps for 'Wee' Willie, one giant leap in Seattle feud
March 25, 2014
This year Vancouver Whitecaps FC celebrate their 40th anniversary. That history will come to the forefront on May 3 when the 'Caps host San Jose Earthquakes at BC Place - almost 40 years to the day of the club's first ever match on May 5, 1974. While Vancouver and San Jose share a long history - 1974 was also the Quakes first season - they're not quite traditional rivals.
So what makes a good rivalry? Passion, pride, and prestige are all integral ingredients, but the one thing that separates the top sports feuds from the rest is always a little bit of bad blood.
Animosity is something that has never been lacking in the derby between Vancouver Whitecaps FC and another club who played their first season in 1974, cross-border rivals Seattle Sounders FC. The longtime foes will face off three times this season, with the first match at BC Place on May 24.
But before looking ahead, let's look back at the past.
On April 12, 1980, the Sounders traveled north of the border to play the 'Caps at Empire Stadium. The story, however, starts two years before this match.
After qualifying for the 1978 FIFA World Cup in Argentina, members of the Scottish national team decided that any endorsement money that any of them received would go into a players’ pool and be shared amongst the group. However, some of the players on the team later found out that their captain – and English-born player – Bruce Rioch had kept some of his money for himself, much to the disappointment of his teammates.
On that Scottish team was 'Wee' Willie Johnston (pictured above), who was never shy to express himself. In 1979, Johnston joined Whitecaps FC. The next year, Rioch (pictured right) joined Sounders FC. That set the stage for the two to face off.
The 1980 season started off in different directions for the two clubs, as the 'Caps dropped their first two matches, while the Sounders won their first two. Vancouver, however, entered the match against Seattle as defending champions after famously laying claim to the 1979 Soccer Bowl, and the Sounders were hungry to crush their rivals.
The match played out in usual derby fashion. The heated, hard-nosed affair finished as a 0-0 stalemate after regulation. However, because there were no ties in NASL – only wins and losses – the encounter went to a 30-minute mini-game before eventually concluding with a shootout.
The last man up in the shootout for Vancouver was none other than 'Wee' Willie. The Scotsman stepped up to shoot and promptly dribbled in and fired home the winner. But before making it back to his teammates, he had a special delivery for his old friend on the Sounders.
“He was jogging back to our bench, but on the way, he had to go past the Seattle bench,” remembers former Whitecaps FC teammate Carl Valentine. “He stopped, dropped his shorts, and mooned the Seattle bench.
“When I spoke to Willie afterwards, he said that it was for Bruce Rioch.”
Losing to their rivals in such fashion was surely a bitter pill to swallow for Seattle.
Vancouver, on the other hand? They were over the moon.
Whitecaps FC season tickets start at the prorated price of just $331 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.