Playing the final match of their inaugural Major League Soccer season, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (6W-17L-10D) host Western Conference rivals Colorado Rapids (11W-9L-13D) on Saturday afternoon.
Bell Pitch at BC Place will be the venue for Whitecaps FC's final game of 2011, as the Blue and White look to end their first season in MLS on a positive note with a third-straight victory in their newly-renovated home in downtown Vancouver. The 'Caps host a Colorado side that are preparing to defend their MLS Cup title after securing one of four wild card spots for the 2011 postseason.
Saturday's match between Whitecaps FC and Colorado Rapids on Bell Pitch at BC Place is set for 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 Saturday's 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. 'Caps fans can also listen to Saturday's season finale live on teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 2 p.m. PT. There will also be a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match. *Please note that TEAM 1040 radio will also join Saturday's match in progress from 5:30 p.m. PT.*
Before the season started, Whitecaps FC knew there would be a sharp learning curve with the move up to MLS from the North American second division level. While there have been some very difficult moments for the club to endure this season, several players in Tom Soehn's squad have shown the potential of being top performers in the league in years to come. It is a situation that will surely please incoming head coach Martin Rennie, as the Scotsman prepares to take the reins in 2012 after seeing his tenure as Carolina RailHawks head coach come to an end in the second-tier North American Soccer League playoffs last weekend.
As for this season's finale, the main aim for Whitecaps FC is putting in another home performance that will provide the anticipation of brighter days ahead for supporters. The fact that Real Salt Lake and D.C. United found life difficult at BC Place earlier this month speaks to the potential of Vancouver's home becoming one of the most intimidating stadiums in MLS. It will be interesting to see if Soehn provides opportunities to players that have seen limited first-team action in this final league match of the year. He has plenty of options to consider for his starting XI, with several experienced members of the squad getting a good run-out in the club's final MLS Reserve League match at Chivas USA on Tuesday.
Two Whitecaps FC players will miss Saturday's match, as young goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre and experienced striker Atiba Harris (both knee) remain sidelined. Right fullback Jonathan Leathers (hamstring), centre back Carlyle Mitchell (groin), and midfielder Russell Teibert (toe laceration) are questionable to face Colorado, while veteran midfielder John Thorrington (groin) is listed as probable.
Unbeaten in their last three league matches, Colorado will make league history on Canada's west coast this weekend. By facing the 'Caps on Bell Pitch at BC Place, the Rapids will become the first and only visiting MLS club to play Whitecaps FC at both Empire Field and BC Place in the same year. Saturday's regular season finale also caps a busy week of action for Gary Smith's side, as Colorado saw their 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) campaign come to an end this week. A 2-0 defeat at Mexico's Club Santos Laguna on Wednesday - coupled with Thursday's 3-2 home win by Isidro Metapán (El Salvador) over Real España (Honduras) - meant the Rapids finished third in Group B and missed out on the CCL quarterfinals in the New Year. As for Saturday's match, the defending MLS Cup champions will be looking for a win over Whitecaps FC, as the Rapids are keen to secure a second-place wild card finish, and with it, a home playoff game next week.
A talented and hard-working side, the Rapids will look to Republic of Ireland international Caleb Folan and Jamaica striker Omar Cummings to fill the void left by long-term injury casualty Conor Casey. The Colorado goalscorer has been sidelined after suffering a tear to his Achilles tendon during a 4-3 away defeat to Seattle Sounders FC on July 16. For the Vancouver clash, Colorado will also be without defender Drew Moor, as he serves a suspension on Saturday for yellow card accumulation. The Rapids are also without defender Anthony Wallace (knee), while midfielders Pablo Mastroeni (concussion) and Jamie Smith (hamstring/calf) are questionable to face the 'Caps. First-choice goalkeeper Matt Pickens (groin) is listed as probable.
Saturday's match is the second MLS regular season meeting between Whitecaps FC and the Rapids. Both clubs first met at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on July 9, with Colorado coming away with a 2-1 victory. A first-half strike by Casey and a second-half goal by substitute Scott Palguta gave the Rapids all three points on a stormy night in Commerce City, Colorado. Camilo replied for Whitecaps FC with what was the best goal of the match. Both clubs also met in preseason on March 12, with the Rapids earning a 1-0 victory in a closed-door friendly at Empire Field. Jamie Smith scored Colorado's late winner on a cold and wet afternoon in East Vancouver.
While this is the first meeting between both clubs, there are several connections between both sets of players. Whitecaps FC defender/midfielder Jordan Harvey and goalkeeper Joe Cannon are former Rapids players, while 'Caps midfielder Jeb Brovsky and keeper Jay Nolly grew up in the state of Colorado. Meanwhile, three members of the Rapids played against Whitecaps FC in the old United Soccer Leagues First Division (USL-1). Palguta and Danny Earls faced Vancouver as members of Rochester Rhinos, while striker Macoumba Kandji faced the 'Caps as a member of Atlanta Silverbacks. Winger Sanna Nyassi became a Rapids player after Colorado exchanged an international roster slot with Whitecaps FC for the former Seattle Sounders FC player following Vancouver's selection of the talented Gambian in the 2010 MLS Expansion Draft.
Prior to this season, Whitecaps FC played 21 matches versus former American Professional Soccer League (APSL)/A-League club Colorado Foxes. From 1992 to 1997, Vancouver registered an overall record of 10 wins and 11 defeats versus Colorado, with the 'Caps claiming seven wins and four defeats at home to the Foxes during that time. From 1992 to 1994, Soehn played for the Foxes in the APSL.
FAN APPRECIATION DAY
With Saturday being the final match of the season, Whitecaps FC is celebrating 'Fan Appreciation Day' at BC Place. To commemorate the day, fans will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of pre, during, and post-match activations from team awards and "jerseys off our backs" to live bands, contests, pre and post-match discounts at Milestones, and two-for-one deals on select Whitecaps FC merchandise. Visit whitecapsfc.com for more information on Fan Appreciation Day.
PROTECT YOUR TURF
Whitecaps FC season tickets for the 2012 MLS season are now available. Season tickets start at a base price of $329, plus applicable tax and a $10 processing fee per order, and include all MLS regular season home matches and Nutrilite Canadian Championship home matches.
Providing significant savings over individual match tickets, 2012 season ticket packages also offers purchase priority for international matches and playoff matches, opportunities to purchase pre-sale tickets for select concerts at BC Place, as well as discounts on official Whitecaps FC merchandise.
To secure a seat and for additional information about Whitecaps FC MLS season tickets, suites, and loge boxes, call 604.669.9283 or visit whitecapsfc.com.