Playing the final away match of their inaugural Major League Soccer season, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (6W-16L-10D) return to the state of Texas to take on Western Conference rivals FC Dallas (14W-11L-7D) on Saturday evening.
With back-to-back league victories from a four-match home stand, Whitecaps FC are aiming to use this final opportunity of the year to claim their first away win as an MLS club. Boosted by home wins over Real Salt Lake and D.C. United, Tom Soehn's side make their maiden visit to Pizza Hut Park this weekend and face an FC Dallas side that secured their spot for this year's MLS Cup Playoffs during the week.
Saturday's match between Whitecaps FC and FC Dallas from Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas, kicks off at 5:30 p.m. PT and is live on Sportsnet ONE and Bell mobile devices. 'Caps fans can also listen to Saturday's contest live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 3:30 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show following the match.
Now in the final stretch of what has been a challenging first season in MLS, confidence has grown in Soehn's squad after two solid performances on Bell Pitch at BC Place. It is that confidence that the 'Caps need to take into Saturday's game, as the weekend trip to Texas provides them with their last opportunity of 2011 to claim their first away victory in the league. The Blue and White have endured a difficult time playing away from home this season, having gone 0W-11L-5D through the course of this inaugural MLS campaign.
Having played the same starting XI against Real Salt Lake and D.C. United, there would be little surprise if Soehn kept faith with the youthful line-up that has appeared in the past two games. Should he consider changes, he does have options to consider choosing from. It will be interesting to see if Designated Player Eric Hassli returns to the starting line-up on Saturday, as Camilo and Long Tan have performed well together in Vancouver's attack. Both the Brazilian and the Chinese imports took their goals well in Wednesday's 2-1 home win over D.C. United.
After impressing in his first two league appearances for the 'Caps, centre back Carlyle Mitchell (groin) has not made the trip to Texas after picking up a groin strain in the midweek win over D.C. United. The Trinidad & Tobago international joins a casualty list that includes young goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre (knee), right fullback Jonathan Leathers (hamstring), midfielder Russell Teibert (toe laceration), and former FC Dallas striker Atiba Harris (knee). Experienced midfielder John Thorrington (groin) is listed as probable.
With just over a week left in the regular season, FC Dallas became the fourth club to book their place in the postseason with a 2-1 victory at Chicago Fire on Wednesday. Goals either side of halftime by Jackson and Daniel Cruz ensured that Schellas Hyndman's squad will have the chance to make a second straight appearance in the MLS Cup final after falling to Colorado Rapids in last year's championship game in Toronto. The midweek win also ended a poor run of seven matches without a victory in all competitions. The Hoops had lost four straight in MLS to go with a draw and two defeats in Group C action of the 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions League (CCL).
Saturday's match will be the first of back-to-back clashes with clubs from Canada, as FC Dallas follow their MLS match with Vancouver by hosting Toronto FC in a crucial CCL encounter on Tuesday, with a berth in the quarterfinals at stake for both MLS clubs. The Hoops need to either beat TFC or draw with The Reds and hope Mexico's Pumas UNAM beat or draw with Panama's Tauro FC. Dallas' Group C campaign produced an historical moment in August 17, as their 1-0 win away to Pumas UNAM made them the first MLS club to win a competitive match on Mexican soil.
A squad that includes some very talented players, Hyndman is without four players for Saturday's match. Goalkeeper Josh Lambo (jaw), defender Edson Edward (knee), and midfielders David Ferreira (ankle) and Andrew Wiedeman (groin) are all sidelined with injury concerns.
Whitecaps FC and FC Dallas met for the first time in MLS on Bell Pitch at Empire Field on April 23, with the Texas outfit coming from a goal down to defeat their hosts 2-1. Alain Rochat gave the 'Caps a 1-0 halftime lead with his first goal of the Blue and White, but a George John equalizer early in the second half for The Hoops set up substitute Eric Avila's winning strike in East Vancouver.
While this is the first season playing FC Dallas in MLS, Whitecaps FC have prior experience of playing teams from Dallas, Texas. During the days of the old North American Soccer League (NASL), Vancouver registered an 11W-5L-0D record versus Dallas Tornado between 1974 and 1981. This included an away record of 4W-4L-0D. During Whitecaps FC's run to the 1979 NASL Soccer Bowl title, Vancouver eliminated the Tornado in the National Conference playoff quarterfinals. The weekend match will also be the 48th time that Whitecaps FC have played a club from the state of Texas. In The Lone Star State, Vancouver have registered an all-time record of 7W-13L-2D for an overall all-time record of 28W-15L-4D.
Both the 'Caps and FC Dallas also have some interesting connections in their two rosters. Vancouver striker Atiba Harris was an important part of FC Dallas' squad last season, with the forward starting last year's MLS Cup final for The Hoops in Toronto. Soehn won the 1997 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup title as a member of FC Dallas (known then as Dallas Burn). Kevin Hartman and right fullback Jonathan Leathers are former Sporting Kansas City teammates, while Texas native Shea Salinas played with FC Dallas goalkeeper Chris Seitz and defender/midfielder Andrew Jacobson at Philadelphia Union.
Following their final away match on Saturday, Whitecaps FC will complete their inaugural MLS campaign on Bell Pitch at BC Place when they host Western Conference rivals Colorado Rapids on Saturday, October 22, at 4 p.m. PT. Tickets for the club's last match of 2011 range from $20 to $55 (including HST) and are subject to applicable service charges and fees. Fans can purchase tickets for the October 22 match at all Ticketmaster Ticket Centres, online at ticketmaster.ca, and Charge-by-Phone at 1.855.6.GO-CAPS (1.855.646.2277).
Whitecaps FC's final home match versus Colorado Rapids can also be seen live on Sportsnet ONE and Bell mobile devices at 4 p.m. PT, with a pre-game show beginning at 3:30 p.m. PT.