As we build up to Whitecaps FC's return to downtown Vancouver, whitecapsfc.com takes a look at the major soccer events that have been staged at BC Place since the stadium's first opening 28 years ago. In our final edition of this series, we look at the international friendly that helped set the stage for the club's downtown return this weekend.
After winning their first United Soccer Leagues First Division (USL-1) title in 2006, Whitecaps FC announced ahead of the 2007 season that English star David Beckham and Major League Soccer club LA Galaxy would take on the Blue and White in a friendly match at BC Place on October 3, 2007. With plans to fill the once-domed stadium, the friendly not only brought one of soccer's high-profile figures to Vancouver, it gave Whitecaps FC the chance to boost their brand and exposure during the latter stages of its time as a North American second division club.
There were many challenges in the build-up to the match - not least of which was the postponement of the match from its original October 3 date after Beckham suffered a knee injury in late August of that year. Securing a new date for the game was further challenged by the Galaxy's late push to make the 2007 MLS Cup Playoffs, as LA took their postseason hopes right up to the final day of the MLS regular season in late October before missing out. The result was a new date of Wednesday, November 7, 2007, for the friendly - a date that left the 'Caps with two-and-a-half weeks to prepare for the event.
The festivities began the day before on Tuesday, November 6, 2007, with the arrival of the Galaxy in Vancouver and a much-anticipated pre-match press conference at the Pan Pacific Hotel in downtown Vancouver. Media and guests packed one of the hotel's conference rooms to ask questions of the former England captain, with Beckham jokingly stating that his love for soccer was such that he would "…play for nothing…", despite signing the most lucrative player contract in MLS history earlier in the year.
Later that day, the Galaxy took part in an open practice session in front of a crowd of 2,000 invited spectators at BC Place - most of which were 'Caps season ticket holders. While training itself was relatively uneventful, the practice ended in memorable fashion, as Beckham took time to sign every autograph request from the waiting crowd following the training session.
As for the match itself, a crowd of 48,172 took in the friendly under the old BC Place dome that Wednesday night. The Galaxy squad not only included Beckham in his first game on Canadian soil for 72 minutes, it also included current Whitecaps FC players Joe Cannon and Pete Vagenas, former 'Caps midfielder Kevin Harmse, and Canadian international Ante Jazic. The match ended in a 0-0 draw, though Whitecaps FC played well enough to win the contest. They had a chance to take the lead on the half-hour mark when Cannon brought down Eduardo Sebrango in the LA box for a penalty. The Cuban striker took the spot kick, but Cannon saved the penalty with his legs.
All in all, November 7, 2007, was a highly successful event that brought positive attention to Whitecaps FC and galvanized the club's plans to make the jump to MLS and a return to BC Place. While it may not have been the exact starting point, this friendly match helped set the course for one of the most exciting periods in the long and storied history of the Blue and White.