Though it may have been postponed for more than a month, the much-anticipated international friendly between Vancouver Whitecaps and Los Angeles Galaxy is now upon us.
A sprained right knee suffered by Galaxy’s star midfielder David Beckham in late August meant the former England captain was not fit to play on the original October 3 date at BC Place. Whitecaps fans then had to wait until late October for a new date of November 7 to be announced, as the Galaxy took their push for the 2007 Major League Soccer playoffs right up to the final day of the regular season.
For the Whitecaps, much has changed since their early exit from last September’s United Soccer Leagues First Division playoffs. A two-leg defeat to Portland Timbers ended Vancouver’s defence of their 2006 USL-1 title following a disappointing seventh-place finish in the regular-season standings. Though Vancouver suffered numerous injury problems during the season, a unwanted run of 12 games without a victory put a damper on what was a promising start to the 2007 campaign, as the Whitecaps were undefeated in their opening seven league contests.
Interim head coach Todd Wawrousek will be in charge of the Whitecaps squad for the Galaxy game and he will have seven new players to feature against their MLS opponents. Three free agents in former Atlanta Silverbacks centre back Omar Jarun, former Minnesota Thunder forward Darren Spicer, and former Carolina RailHawks midfielder Joey Worthen have all been given the opportunity to earn a contract with the Whitecaps for next season. The trio are joined by two members of the current USL-1 champion Seattle Sounders. Centre back Taylor Graham and forward Roger Levesque have both made the short trip up Interstate 5 to help boost Wawrousek’s squad on a one-week loan deal. “I’m looking for quality performances in fulfilling their roles,” Wawrousek told whitecapsfc.com of his new additions. “All five players have shown moments of very good quality at various times in training, and their acclamation to the team has been quite good. The utilization of those players will be dictated somewhat by what happens in the game.”
Wawrousek has also added two Whitecaps Residency members to his squad. Defender Adam Straith and striker Randy Edwini-Bonsu have made the move up to the first team after recently completing a successful two-week trip to Germany with Thomas Niendorf’s squad. “I think it’s a great opportunity and a privilege for those two to be part of the first team for a marquee event that this game will be,” he said. “They may not play a prominent role in what unfolds on Wednesday, but I look upon it more as a position of growth for them as players and young men.”
Having assembled the full complement of his squad for the Galaxy game in late October, Wawrousek has been pleased with the way preparations have gone to this stage. “There’s a great deal of enthusiasm, coupled with a great deal of excitement and concentrated effort, that has resulted in what I feel to be a good state of preparation,” he added.
Like Vancouver, the Galaxy will also be looking towards the 2008 MLS season when they face the Whitecaps, having come within a victory of reaching the postseason last month. Despite being without the services of Beckham, an improbable run of five wins and a draw late in the season gave Los Angeles some hope of making this month’s MLS playoffs, but a final-day defeat at Chicago Fire brought their 2007 campaign to a close. Like the Whitecaps, injuries hampered the Galaxy’s campaign, with Los Angeles recording three wins, four draws, and six defeats in the league before Beckham joined his new club on July 13.
The former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder was greeted with much fanfare in his Galaxy debut against English giants Chelsea on July 21, but an ankle injury suffered while on England duty back in June meant Beckham was forced to watch many of the Galaxy’s games from the sidelines in August. Though he showed glimpses of his brilliance against DC United in the SuperLiga semifinal, Beckham missed most of the season run-in after picking up a knee injury in the SuperLiga final against Mexican club Pachuca on August 29.
Though the Galaxy’s attention usually surrounds Beckham, there is also some Canadian flavour in the visiting squad. Former Whitecaps midfielder Kevin Harmse is sure to relish the opportunity of playing in his hometown after the 23-year-old made 36 appearances for his old club in 2004 and 2005. Harmse made the jump to MLS this year after a brief spell with Slovakian club FC Nitra. Fellow Canadian international Ante Jazic also completed his first full season with Los Angeles after signing with the Galaxy in August 2006. The Halifax, Nova Scotia, native has experience of playing professionally in Austria, Croatia, and Russia during his career.
In Joe Cannon, the Galaxy have one of MLS’s top goalkeepers, while holding midfielder Peter Vagenas is one of the club’s veteran players after completing his seventh season with the southern California outfit. Forward Landon Donovan is considered one of the best soccer talents to come out of the US, while Galaxy stalwart Cobi Jones will be playing one of his last games for the MLS club, as the former USA international will retire from professional soccer in early December.
For the Galaxy, the game against the Whitecaps is one of four friendlies that Los Angeles will play before the end of the year. They travel to face USL-1 club Minnesota Thunder on Sunday, November 11, before heading to Australia for a game with Sydney FC on November 27 and New Zealand for a match with Wellington Phoenix on December 1.
Wednesday’s international friendly between the Whitecaps and the Galaxy kicks off at BC Place at 7:00 p.m. Individual tickets start at just $25 and are available at all Ticketmaster locations, by phone at 604.280.4400 or online at ticketmaster.ca. For more information, visit whitecapsfc.com or call the Whitecaps office at 604.669.WAVE (9283).
You can also watch Wednesday’s exhibition game live on GOLTV Canada (Shaw Cable channel 151) or listen to the action live from BC Place on TEAM 1040 radio or online at team1040.ca.