Coming off a well-earned extended break, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (4W-13L-9D) begin the month of September with a trip to Harrison, New Jersey, to take on Eastern Conference club New York Red Bulls (6W-6L-14D) in Major League Soccer on Saturday night.
With only three away matches left in their inaugural regular season schedule, the Blue and White are looking at this weekend's visit to the impressive Red Bull Arena as the latest opportunity to claim their first away win in MLS. Tom Soehn's side head east in fine spirits after a 1-0 home win over Houston Dynamo on August 27. The 'Caps meet a star-studded Red Bulls side that have slipped from the Eastern Conference summit to occupy the last playoff spot following a surprisingly lean run of results.
Saturday's match between Whitecaps FC and New York Red Bulls from Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, kicks off at 4:30 p.m. PT and is live on Sportsnet and Bell mobile devices. Vancouver 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.
With eight matches remaining in their inaugural MLS regular season, Whitecaps FC head into the home stretch with plenty of enthusiasm after a morale-boosting win over Houston. The result over the Dynamo on Bell Pitch at Empire Field not only earned three more points for the 'Caps, it was achieved in a manner not seen this season after Shea Salinas struck in the dying stages for the one-goal victory. More often than not, Vancouver have been on the wrong end of such closely-fought encounters in 2011 - an experience that has left Whitecaps FC a frustrated bunch on many occasions.
Soehn's squad will be boosted by the return of Camilo for this weekend's trip to New York. The in-form Brazilian was unable to play against Houston after being suspended for an accumulation of five yellow cards. The 'Caps can also look to Designated Player Mustapha Jarju as an option in their attack, with the striker back from Africa Cup of Nations qualifying duty with The Gambia last weekend. Fellow African Nizar Khalfan, however, is unlikely to make Saturday's match after returning to Vancouver from international duty with Tanzania on Thursday.
There should be a further selection boost for Soehn, as midfielders Davide Chiumiento (illness) and John Thorrington (groin) are likely to make the trip to New York, despite being listed as questionable earlier in the week. However, three players in goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre and striker Atiba Harris (both knee), as well as youngster Russell Teibert (toe) will miss the Red Bulls game with respective injury concerns.
A club that includes proven world-class stars, solid professionals, and emerging MLS talent, much has been expected of the Red Bulls in 2011. However, a run of seven league matches without a win has seen Hans Backe's side fall from top spot to fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings, with New York precariously occupying the last wild card spot for this year's MLS Cup Playoffs. You have to go back to July 6 for the Red Bulls' last win in MLS - a 5-0 home drubbing of Toronto FC. New York are also a side that have been inactive for three weeks after Hurricane Irene postponed their August 28 home clash versus MLS high-flyers LA Galaxy to Tuesday, October 4. Saturday's match will also be one of remembrance off the pitch, as the Red Bulls will mark the 10th anniversary of the 'September 11 attacks' on New York City with a pre-match ceremony.
It will also be a different looking Red Bulls side that face Whitecaps FC this weekend. Two of New York's three Designated Players are available after French star Thierry Henry and Mexican international Rafa Marquez missed the trip to Vancouver in late May. Dane Richards is also available after international duty with Jamaica ruled him out of the club's inaugural visit to Canada's west coast. Norwegian midfielder Jan Gunnar Solli returns to the squad after recovering from a right quadriceps injury. Backe's squad also includes former FC Dallas midfielder Dax McCarty, who joined the Red Bulls in a trade that sent Canadian international Dwayne De Rosario to D.C. United on June 27.
New York will be without their third Designated Player in German goalkeeper Frank Rost, who has a tear in his right quadriceps muscle. Former Toronto FC midfielder Carl Robinson (knee) will also miss Saturday's clash, as will defender Roy Miller (adductor strain), midfielder Sacir Hot (knee) and striker Corey Hertzog (illness). Finland international Teemu Tainio is suspended following two bookable offences in the Red Bulls' 2-2 draw at Eastern Conference rivals New England Revolution on August 20. Midfielder Brian Nielsen (knee) and English striker Luke Rodgers (plantar fasciitis) are listed as questionable.
Saturday's match will be the second all-time clash between Whitecaps FC and the Red Bulls. On May 28, both clubs had to settle for a 1-1 draw in their inaugural meeting at Empire Field. In what was Teitur Thordarson's last match in charge of the 'Caps, Vancouver took the lead with a first-half penalty from Eric Hassli before Rodgers earned an away point for New York with an equalizer before halftime. This weekend's clash will be the 26th all-time meeting between Vancouver and a club from the New York metropolitan area and the 55th match all-time between the 'Caps and a club from New York State.
Since 1974, Whitecaps FC have had a long history of playing teams from the city and state of New York. 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-1D versus clubs from New York City and an overall record of 32W-18L-4D against teams from New York State. This includes an all-time away record of 6W-6L-0D against New York City clubs and a 12W-13L-1D away record versus New York State outfits.
NEXT STOP: LOS ANGELES
Following Saturday's trip to New York, Whitecaps FC head to America's west coast and a return visit to The Home Depot Center in Carson, California, to take on top MLS club LA Galaxy on Saturday, September 17. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. PT and is live on Sportsnet Pacific and Bell mobile devices. Vancouver fans can also listen to the September 17 contest live on TEAM 1040 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 5:30 p.m. PT. TEAM 1040 will also have a two-hour post-game show.
MLS single match tickets are also available for Vancouver's last remaining game at Empire Field versus Pacific Northwest rivals Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday, September 24, and range 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).