Making their first league trip to the American capital this weekend, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (3W-11L-9D) visit Eastern Conference club D.C. United (6W-6L-9D) in Major League Soccer on Saturday evening.
The Blue and White head to the District of Columbia in fine spirits after an impressive 4-2 victory at home to Chicago Fire last weekend. It was a morale-boosting performance by the 'Caps, who now face the challenge of a trip to Washington, D.C., to face the four-time MLS Cup champions and a Cascadia Cup derby clash at Portland Timbers on the following weekend. Vancouver meet a United side that are in a battle to earn a wild card spot for this year's MLS Cup Playoffs.
Saturday's match between Whitecaps FC and D.C. United at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., kicks off at 4:30 p.m. PT and is live on Rogers Sportsnet (Pacific, West, and East) and Bell mobile devices. There will also be a pre-game show on Rogers Sportsnet Pacific and West at 4 p.m. PT. 'Caps fans can also listen to Saturday's contest live on TEAM 1040 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 2:30 p.m. PT. TEAM 1040 will also have a two-hour post-game show.
The feeling of delight has been in short supply this season at Whitecaps FC, but last Sunday's convincing win over Chicago was a timely boost to a squad that might have deserved more for their efforts in recent games. Soehn's side showed the work ethic and attacking threat to keep the Fire on the back foot at Empire Field, with striker Eric Hassli leading the way with two goals. The big Frenchman's efforts were enough to earn him a spot in the MLSsoccer.com Team of the Week for Week 21. With 11 matches left in their regular season schedule, the task now for Vancouver is to build on Sunday's win and work their way up the Western Conference standings. The trip to D.C. provides Whitecaps FC with their latest opportunity to claim their first away win in MLS, having drawn their last road encounter at San Jose Earthquakes on July 20.
With fit-again midfielder John Thorrington getting through the first half of Sunday's game with no ill effects, Whitecaps FC will have further leadership available in the form of captain Jay DeMerit this weekend. The United States international came through the first half of Tuesday's reserve team win over Seattle Sounders FC reserves without any concerns and will likely be considered for selection on Saturday.
However, Soehn's squad will be without versatile defender Alain Rochat for Saturday's game. The Canadian-born Swiss international has stayed behind in Vancouver to treat a strain in his left adductor and is listed as day-to-day. He joins striker Atiba Harris on the sidelines, with the St. Kitts & Nevis international recovering from knee surgery back in late April.
Known for their winning tradition, D.C. United are looking to rekindle their glory days as one of the top clubs in MLS. With only one defeat in their last eight league matches, Ben Olsen's side are keen to claim as many points as possible, with the Eastern Conference outfit sitting two points outside of the playoff spots. Saturday's match will also be the second straight home contest versus Canadian opposition following an entertaining 3-3 draw with Toronto FC last weekend. Former TFC captain Dwayne De Rosario haunted his old club with a hat-trick for United, as the experienced attacker earned MLS Player of the Week honours for a second straight week. Since arriving in a trade from New York Red Bulls, the Canadian international has been in scintillating form, scoring six goals in as many appearances for D.C. He now gets to face Vancouver for the third time in 2011, having played at Empire Field with TFC (March 19) and New York (May 28) this season.
De Rosario is one of several United players that Whitecaps FC will keep note of at RFK Stadium. On-loan striker Charlie Davies leads D.C. with eight goals this season, while experienced forward Josh Wolff has four goals and five assists. Chris Pontius has appeared in every match for D.C. this season, while Canadian international centre back Dejan Jakovic is back in the fold after a recent hamstring injury. Olsen's coaching staff, meanwhile, includes Vancouver native Pat Onstad as one of his assistants. The former Canadian international was considered one of the top goalkeepers in North America during his eight-year MLS playing career.
D.C. will be a different-looking side on Saturday. Olsen and goalkeeper Bill Hamid are both suspended for the Vancouver match. Olsen was thrown out of TFC draw following a disagreement with match referee Jasen Anno, while Hamid was sent off for a professional foul in the early stages of last Saturday's game. United assistant coach Chad Ashton will take charge of the home side in Olsen's absence, while former Portland Timbers shot-stopper Steve Cronin is likely to get the start in goal for Hamid. On the injury front, Designated Player Branko Boskovic will miss the visit of Vancouver with a ligament tear in his left knee, while defender Jed Zayner is sidelined with a knee sprain. Goalkeeper Joe Willis (finger) and midfielder Kurt Morsink (ankle) are listed as probable.
Saturday's match is the first-ever meeting between Whitecaps FC and D.C. United, with both clubs set to meet again in the league at BC Place on Wednesday, October 12. Before this season, the 'Caps played Washington Diplomats in the old North American Soccer League from 1974 to 1981. Vancouver registered an overall record of four wins and four defeats versus the Diplomats. This included two wins at home over the Diplomats and an away record of two wins and four defeats in Washington, D.C.
Two Whitecaps FC players enjoyed spells with D.C. United before moving to Vancouver. Jay Nolly played the 2007 MLS season with United before joining the 'Caps ahead of their United Soccer Leagues First Division championship season of 2008. Centre back Greg Janicki, meanwhile, appeared for D.C. in 2008 and 2009 before coming to Vancouver for the 2010 United States Soccer Federation Division-2 Professional League campaign.
NEXT UP: THE CITY OF ROSES
Following Saturday's trip to D.C., Whitecaps FC make their long-anticipated visit to The City of Roses for their first MLS meeting with fellow expansion cousins and Pacific Northwest rivals Portland Timbers at JELD-WEN Field in Portland, Oregon, on Saturday, August 20. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. PT and is live on TSN and Bell mobile devices. 'Caps fans can also listen to the Cascadia Cup derby clash live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 5 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show.
MLS single match tickets are also available for all of our remaining matches at Empire Field this season, ranging from $20 to $55 (including HST). All tickets are subject to applicable service charges and fees. Fans can purchase these tickets at all Ticketmaster Ticket Centres, online at ticketmaster.ca/whitecaps, or Charge-by-Phone at 1.855.6.GO-CAPS (1.855.646.2277).