Playing their sixth and final game this month, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (1W-5L-5D) return to Major League Soccer action on Bell Pitch at Empire Field this weekend, as they host Eastern Conference club New York Red Bulls (4W-2L-5D) on Saturday afternoon.
Following a bizarre week, in which Vancouver's hopes of becoming Nutrilite Canadian Championship (NCC) winners were put on hold by the abandonment of Wednesday's second leg at Toronto's BMO Field, Teitur Thordarson's side will now put their focus back on trying to end a winless run of 10 league matches by claiming a home result against one of the best teams in MLS. They host a Red Bulls side that are also searching to find form after extending their winless run in the league to four games following a midweek home draw with Colorado Rapids.
Saturday's match between Whitecaps FC and New York Red Bulls at Empire Field kicks off at 2:30 p.m. PT. Individual match tickets start at $20, plus applicable service charges, and are available at all Ticketmaster Ticket Centres, online at ticketmaster.ca, and Charge-by-Phone at 1.855.6.GO-CAPS (1.855.646.2277). Visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets for more information on individual match tickets for the club's inaugural MLS season.
Whitecaps FC's home match versus New York Red Bulls can also be seen live on TSN and Bell mobile devices at 2:30 p.m. PT. 'Caps fans can also listen to Saturday's contest live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 12:30 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match at around 4:30 p.m. PT.
The Blue and White were hoping to parade their first piece of silverware before Saturday's Red Bulls match, as the second leg of this year's NCC final was due to be completed on Wednesday night. However, lightning and heavy rain showers forced the abandonment of the midweek contest in Southern Ontario, despite the 'Caps taking the lead at Toronto FC through a first-half Eric Hassli goal. The second leg will now be replayed in its entirety from a 0-0 scoreline at Toronto's BMO Field on Saturday, July 2.
It meant that the hour's worth of play that Thordarson's side took part in on Wednesday was all for not, with Whitecaps FC now needing to put their thoughts of a first Voyageurs Cup title on the backburner for the time being. As frustrating an experience as it turned out to be, Vancouver will be encouraged by another solid display from the same starting XI that played in last week's NCC final, first leg. Thordarson's squad have looked a more confident outfit since the return to fitness of several key players in recent weeks. Having a healthy squad will be crucial in the few weeks, as the 'Caps play five of their next six league games away from Empire Field after Saturday's match.
A club that includes proven world-class stars, solid professionals, and emerging MLS talent, much is expected of this 2011 Red Bulls side. Despite the abundance of talent, Hans Backe's squad have yet to fire on all cylinders through the first third of their MLS campaign. While Wednesday's 2-2 draw at home to Colorado took New York into a tie at the summit of Eastern Conference standings, the Red Bulls will want to end a run of three draws and a defeat with a second road win of the season on Saturday.
Backe will have to achieve this result without his two Designated Players on Canada's west coast. Striker Thierry Henry has not made the trip to Vancouver after picking up swelling in his right knee. The former Arsenal, Barcelona, and France forward played 87 minutes against the Rapids on Wednesday. New York's other Designated Player in the versatile Rafa Marquez will also miss Saturday's match, as he is on international duty with his native Mexico, while midfielder Dane Richards is also away with the Jamaican national team. Another Red Bulls player to miss the Whitecaps FC clash is midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy. The Moroccan-born player has stayed in New York because of visa issues. Defender Chris Albright (hernia) and former Toronto FC midfielder Carl Robinson (knee) will also Saturday's game.
Despite the notable absences, the Red Bulls still possess quality attackers like American prodigy Juan Agudelo, while an early-season trade brought Canadian international Dwayne De Rosario to the club from Toronto FC. English lower division import John Rooney, meanwhile, is the brother of Manchester United FC and England striker Wayne Rooney. Red Bulls midfielder Joel Lindpere will know Thordarson from the 1990's when the Whitecaps FC head coach was manager of the Estonian national team. New York have more Canadian flavour in the form of former Montreal Impact and Toronto FC goalkeeper Greg Sutton.
There are a number of common ties between both clubs including Red Bulls striker Rodgers and Whitecaps FC midfielder Terry Dunfield both played for English League Two outfit Shrewsbury Town FC. It will also be a reunion for Thordarson and Red Bulls midfielder Joel Lindpere. It was Thordarson that selected Lindpere for his first international cap with Estonia's national team.
Saturday's match will be the first-ever meeting between Whitecaps FC and New York, with both clubs set to meet again this season at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, on Saturday, September 10. Though this is the 'Caps first encounter with the Red Bulls, Vancouver have a long history of playing teams from the city and state of New York since 1974. During the days of the old North American Soccer League, the 'Caps battled New York Cosmos and Rochester Lancers. This included the famous NASL National Conference championship series versus a star-studded Cosmos side in 1979. After winning the first match 2-0 in Vancouver, the return game saw the Cosmos win 3-2 at Giants Stadium to force a mini-game and an eventual shootout. Much to the disbelief of 44,109 Cosmos fans, Derek Possee scored the winning goal in the shootout to send Whitecaps FC to the NASL Soccer Bowl, where they defeated Tampa Bay Rowdies to become 1979 NASL champions.
More recently, Whitecaps FC faced New York Centaurs and New York Fever in the American Professional Soccer League seasons of 1995 and 1996. Between 1996 and 2010, the 'Caps also faced Rochester Rhinos at the North American second division level, with Vancouver defeating hosts Rochester to win the 2006 United Soccer Leagues First Division championship title.
Since 1974, Whitecaps FC have registered an overall record of 17W-7L-0D versus clubs from New York City and an overall record of 32W-18L-3D against teams from New York State. This includes an all-time home record of 11W-1L-0D against New York City clubs and a 20W-5L-2D home record versus New York State outfits.
Following Saturday's home match, Whitecaps FC travel to Carson, California, for a return meeting with Western Conference rivals Chivas USA at The Home Depot Center on Wednesday evening. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. PT and is live on Rogers Sportsnet ONE and Bell mobile devices. 'Caps fans can also listen to the June 1 contest live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 5:30 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match at around 9:30 p.m. PT.
Whitecaps FC fans now have the option of purchasing three exciting new match packs. Starting at just $159, the match pack options - GOING HOLLYWOOD, I (HEART) NY, LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR? - all include the Manchester City FC friendly match, valued at $60, and four coveted MLS matches. Aside from season tickets, which also include the Manchester City game, match packs are currently the only way to secure a ticket to the July 18 international friendly. For additional information on match packs, visit whitecapsfc.com/matchpacks.