It was 'Rehearsal Saturday' for Vancouver Whitecaps FC, as the Major League Soccer new boys looked to get things fine tuned - both on and off the pitch at Empire Field - before next Saturday's MLS debut against Toronto FC.
Having completed seven weeks of preparations for their inaugural campaign, the visit of defending MLS Cup champions Colorado Rapids provided yet another good test to Teitur Thordarson's squad, who have faced some of the league's top clubs in friendly action in recent weeks.
Jamie Smith's late goal gave the Rapids victory in the weekend friendly, though Thordarson felt it could have easily been a different result on the Pacific National Exhibition grounds. "During the first 65 minutes, we created a lot of chances against Colorado, who had their best team on the pitch today," said the former Iceland international striker. "If we had scored on one of our big chances, it would have been a different result. We lost the game on a little mistake and that is something we can't afford on this level to make."
The Colorado friendly provided the first chance for 'Caps fans to see new Designated Player signing Eric Hassli. Though still feeling the affects of a midweek trip from Switzerland, the powerful Frenchman showed some of the attacking qualities that could cause many MLS defenders to have headaches this season. "I thought Eric did very well, but we knew he was tired from having arrived in town just a couple of days ago," Thordarson said. "I thought he linked up well with the others in our team, so that was encouraging to see."
Saturday also concluded Colorado's preseason campaign before their formal defence of the MLS Cup title they won last November. Rapids head coach Gary Smith felt he saw two different performances from his side in East Vancouver. "In the first half, I thought we were below the standards that we've set in the last year or more, and especially in preseason," he told whitecapsfc.com. "In the second half, I thought we were better and closer to what we expect us to be before our season opener. The players have worked hard this preseason and it is now about staying sharp and focused for the Portland Timbers next weekend."
His namesake in match-winner Jamie Smith was impressed by the qualities of Whitecaps FC. The Scottish midfielder thinks the Blue and White will have plenty to offer MLS in 2011. "Vancouver showed that they can compete at this level, and I'm sure they will enjoy their first season in the league," he said. "For MLS, it's great having more quality teams in the league like the Whitecaps."