Earning two victories to start their second season in Major League Soccer, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (2W-0L-0D) welcome Eastern Conference club D.C. United (0W-2L-0D) to Bell Pitch at BC Place for their second home match of 2012 on Saturday evening.
Martin Rennie’s side have made a fine start to the new campaign, with the Blue and White registering a season-opening win over Montreal Impact two weeks ago before claiming the club’s first away win in the league last Saturday, as Vancouver got a first-ever MLS goal from captain Jay DeMerit to defeat Western Conference rivals Chivas USA at The Home Depot Center in Carson, California. They welcome a United side that have had a disappointing start to their 2012 campaign, as Ben Olsen’s squad suffered a late season-opening defeat at home to Sporting Kansas City before falling on the road to defending MLS Cup champions LA Galaxy last Sunday.
Saturday's match between Whitecaps FC and D.C. United at BC Place kicks off at 7 p.m. PT. Individual match tickets start at $20, plus applicable service charges, and are available at all Ticketmaster Ticket Centres, online at ticketmaster.ca, and Charge-by-Phone at 1.855.6.GO-CAPS (1.855.646.2277). CLICK HERE for more information on Whitecaps FC tickets.
Whitecaps FC's home match versus D.C. United can also be seen live on Sportsnet Pacific and Bell mobile devices at 7 p.m. PT. 'Caps fans can also listen to Saturday’s match live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 5 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match.
It may be very early days, but there is plenty to be excited about with Whitecaps FC. With two straight victories, including a first-ever win on the road last weekend, Rennie’s squad are building confidence for the challenges that lie ahead. Last weekend’s victory over Chivas USA was not only a key result against another Western Conference opponent, it was the type of victory that will surely build character, as Vancouver were not at their best in claiming all three points in Southern California.
Back in preseason, the Blue and White were lauded for their attacking abilities. After two matches, one of the most interesting aspects of Rennie’s side is how they have improved defensively. In recording back-to-back clean sheets for the first time as an MLS club, the ‘Caps will have surprised some league observers and given Vancouver’s future opponents food for thought in figuring out how to break down the Blue and White.
At the heart of Whitecaps FC’s sturdy defensive rearguard is the emerging partnership between skipper DeMerit and Argentine import Martin Bonjour. Both players look capable of providing the stability that the ‘Caps did not have in central defence last season. While Alain Rochat commands the left fullback role, the skill and work ethic of South Korean star Young-Pyo Lee has impressed many ‘Caps supporters in the past couple of weeks. The right fullback has played his part at both ends of the pitch during Whitecaps FC’s winning start to the year.
Whitecaps FC will be without midfielders Michael Nanchoff (heel) and John Thorrington (quad), as well as strikers Etienne Barbara (groin) and Darren Mattocks (arm and shoulder burn). Two players are listed as questionable. They include goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre (knee) and striker Atiba Harris (knee). Vancouver will also be without young midfielders Bryce Alderson and Russell Teibert, as the pair are on international duty with Canadaʼs U-23 squad at the 2012 CONCACAF menʼs Olympic qualifying tournament in the United States.
After missing the MLS Cup Playoffs for a fourth straight year in 2011, D.C. United refreshed their side with several new faces, while renewing the contracts of some key players. Top of the retained list for Olsen was the talismanic De Rosario. The playmaker’s impact after joining the American capital outfit last summer gave United a chance of reaching the postseason late last year. The Canadian international’s performances in 2012 will be essential, if United are to re-live past glories as one of the league’s original clubs.
Olsen’s new-look United includes four acquisitions with MLS experience. Defender Robbie Russell (Real Salt Lake) and midfielder Danny Cruz (Houston Dynamo) arrived in D.C. following trades, while former Toronto FC and FC Dallas striker Maicon Santos joined United on a free transfer. Brazilian import Marcelo Saragosa had previous spells with LA Galaxy, FC Dallas, and Chivas USA. D.C. also acquired an Argentine centre back of their own in Emiliano Dudar from Switzerland’s Berner Sport Club (BSC) Young Boys, while they made Albanian international striker Hamdi Salihi the club’s second Designated Player. University of Louisville midfielder Nick DeLeon was the seventh overall selection in this year’s MLS SuperDraft and scored United’s consolation goal in last Sunday’s 3-1 defeat in LA.
United will be without Canadian international centre back Dejan Jakovic (groin), fellow defender Ethan White (knee) and midfielders Kurt Morsink (foot) and Lance Rozeboom (knee). D.C. are also without goalkeeper Bill Hamid and defender Perry Kitchen (both United States U-23), as well as midfielder Andy Najar (Honduras U-23), who are all on CONCACAF Olympic qualifying duty with their respective nations.
This is the third meeting between Whitecaps FC and D.C. United, with both clubs first facing each other in MLS last season. On August 13, 2011, Vancouver interim head coach Tom Soehn had a forgettable return to his old club, as United defeated the ‘Caps 4-0 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. De Rosario led by example as D.C. captain, as the playmaker recorded two assists in the four-goal victory. Vancouver avenged that away loss with a 2-1 home win over United on October 12. In what was the club’s third MLS match at BC Place, a first-minute strike by Camilo Sanvezzo and a first-ever MLS goal by Long Tan gave the ‘Caps victory. Brandon McDonald scored United’s consolation goal in the second half. Saturday’s match is the only MLS regular season encounter between Whitecaps FC and D.C. United in 2012.
Before 2011, Whitecaps FC played Washington Diplomats in the old North American Soccer League from 1974 to 1981. Vancouver registered an overall record of four wins and four defeats versus the Diplomats. This included two wins at home over the Diplomats and an away record of two wins and four defeats in Washington, D.C.
A big connection between Whitecaps FC and D.C. United is Soehn's involvement with both clubs. Before joining the 'Caps, Soehn served as United assistant coach from 2004 to 2006 before taking the reins as D.C. head coach from 2007 to 2009. United assistant coach Pat Onstad hails from Vancouver, BC, and played for the club - then known as Vancouver 86ers - as a 19-year-old rookie during the inaugural Canadian Soccer League season of 1987. Among both sets of squads, Cannon was teammates with United’s De Rosario and Brandon McDonald at San Jose Earthquakes, while ‘Caps striker Sébastien Le Toux played with D.C. midfielder Stephen King at Seattle Sounders FC in 2009. In 2010, United defender Daniel Woolard played for Rennie and was teammates with Whitecaps FC’s Barbara, Jun Marques Davidson, Floyd Franks, and Matt Watson at Carolina RailHawks. Vancouver centre back Michael Boxall and D.C. striker Chris Pontius were teammates at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
AWAY TO PHILLY
Following Saturday's home match with D.C. United, Whitecaps FC head out on the road for their next two league matches, starting with a trip to Chester, Pennsylvania, for their only MLS regular season meeting versus Eastern Conference club Philadelphia Union on Saturday, March 31. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. PT and is live on Sportsnet Pacific, as well as Bell mobile devices. 'Caps fans can also listen to the March 31 contest live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 11 a.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match.
Whitecaps FC 2012 Major League Soccer season tickets start at $329, plus applicable tax and a $10 processing fee per order. To secure a seat and for additional information about Whitecaps FC MLS season tickets, including loge seats and suites, call 604.669.9283 or visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.