Three days remain before a second Major League Soccer season begins for Vancouver Whitecaps FC, with the Blue and White currently preparing for First Kick against Canadian arch-rivals and MLS expansion club Montreal Impact on Bell Pitch at BC Place on Saturday afternoon.
Opening matches - be it to start a season or a home schedule - always has a sense of optimism that the campaign to come will be a successful one for a club. For Whitecaps FC, there is plenty to be excited about when Martin Rennie’s side take to the pitch on the weekend. While Saturday will be a landmark day at BC Place, the match will also be the 37th and latest chapter to Vancouver’s book of home openers, stretching back to 1974.
Whitecaps FC’s history in home openers spans four eras and four different venues. During the days of the old North American Soccer League (NASL), the ‘Caps played home openers in the old Empire Stadium from 1974 to 1983 before starting the club’s last NASL season at BC Place in 1984. During those 11 NASL seasons, the ‘Caps did not have the best of fortune in home openers, as they registered four wins and seven defeats in that time.
From 1987 to 1992, the dynasty that was Vancouver 86ers in the Canadian Soccer League (CSL) saw a different outcome in home openers, as the four-time CSL champions registered an undefeated record of 5W-0L-1D in the fortress that was Swangard Stadium.
The Burnaby, BC, venue then presided over a further 16 home openers at the North American second division level. Between 1993 and 2001, Vancouver had a 3W-4L-0D record before embarking on an undefeated streak that stands going into this weekend. From 2002 to 2010, Whitecaps FC registered six wins and three draws in the United Soccer Leagues First Division (USL-1) and United States Soccer Federation Division-2 Professional League before the club won their inaugural match in Major League Soccer with a 4-2 home win over Canadian rivals Toronto FC at Empire Field on March 19, 2011 (pictured).
Of the 37 home openers that have been played, April 12, 2008, stands as the only prior occasion that Whitecaps FC have hosted Montreal in a home opener. Playing at Swangard, both sides raised the curtain on their 2008 USL-1 campaigns, with Eduardo Sebrango scoring the only goal in Vancouver’s 1-0 victory over the Impact. Four years on, Sebrango could be in Montreal’s starting line-up this Saturday after signing with the MLS Impact in preseason.
The weekend match also renews hostilities between both Canadian clubs, despite Saturday being the first meeting of Whitecaps FC and the Impact in MLS. Between 1993 and 2011, Vancouver and Montreal battled 55 times, with the majority of those games occurring at the North American second division level.