This week, there is plenty of soccer involving both Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Canadian national team players. On Sunday, the Canadian women’s national team kicked things off by playing hosts Germany in the opening match of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, with two-thirds of these players having played for the Whitecaps FC women’s team. At club level this week, Whitecaps FC play Toronto FC twice, with the second game deciding the winner of the 2011 Nutrilite Canadian Championship. Additionally, on Canada Day this Friday, the Whitecaps FC women and the Residency team play a doubleheader at Richmond’s Minoru Park.
With all of these matches occurring around the celebration of our nation, I felt this would be a good time to look at two of the most influential players to have played for both Whitecaps FC and for Canada.
When you think of soccer in Vancouver, and across Canada, one of the first names to come up is always Bob Lenarduzzi. Bobby has been part of Vancouver Whitecaps FC since day one and has done more for soccer in Canada than anyone else I know. He played for Whitecaps FC from 1974 till 1984, making 288 appearances and scoring 31 goals, and was the North American Player of the Year in 1978. One of his finest achievements was helping the ‘Caps win the Soccer Bowl in 1979. He later coached Vancouver 86ers from 1987 till 1993, wining four consecutive Canadian Soccer League titles.
Internationally, Bobby played 47 times for Canada, which included the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico and the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California. He not only led his country as a player, he also coached Canada from 1993 till 1997, with his squads coming close to qualifying for the World Cup in his first two attempts at the helm.
I had the pleasure to play with Bobby for Whitecaps FC and for Canada. I was a winger and Bobby played the fullback position behind me. As a defender, he was always reliable, but what made Bobby great to play with was his adventurous nature and his comfort with the ball - traits that his club and country both benefited from.
When talking about influential players on the women’s side of the sport, you have to look no further than Andrea Neil. From 2001 to 2006, Neil played for the Vancouver Whitecaps FC women’s squad (originally known as Vancouver Breakers). She was the club’s captain for the first six years of the franchise’s existence and was a player/assistant coach for the last three seasons. In 2004 and 2006, she led the club to two USL W-League championships. She left Whitecaps FC as the club’s all-time leader in assists (22), minutes (6,066) and games (69). The native of Vancouver, BC also ranks third all-time in points (70) and is tied for third with goals (24) and game-winning goals (8).
Andrea made her senior national team debut as a 19-year-old in 1991 and went on to play 132 times for the Canadian women’s soccer team, appearing in four consecutive World Cups until she played her last match on September 15, 2007, at the FIFA World cup in China.
Bobby Lenarduzzi had this to say when his fellow Canadian soccer legend was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame:
“Andrea is the ultimate pioneer and ambassador,” said Lenarduzzi. “Her relentless commitment to growing women’s soccer in Canada is second to none. She is a natural leader and was instrumental during the Whitecaps two W-League championships in 2004 and 2006.”
Bobby and Andrea both excelled in their roles for Whitecaps FC and for Canada’s men’s and women’s national teams. Bobby is now president of Vancouver Whitecaps FC in MLS, while Andrea is an assistant coach with the Canadian women’s national team currently competing in Germany. They’re both true professionals on and off the field who continue to grow the game of soccer at all levels. Canada is lucky to have such great representatives of the game
Stay tuned to whitecapsfc.com as later in the week, Carl will look at two up and coming Canadian Whitecaps FC players who have the potential to have the same impact for their club and country.