Wrapping up a busy week of Major League Soccer action, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (7W-3L-5D) return to Southern California for the first of three regular season meetings versus defending MLS Cup champions LA Galaxy (5W-8L-2D) on Saturday evening.
Coming off a disappointing draw versus New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night, Martin Rennie’s side will look to conclude a productive month of June in positive fashion when they meet a Galaxy side that look resurgent after a surprisingly slow start to their 2012 campaign. The weekend contest also begins a run of five away league matches for the Blue and White following a three-match home stand.
Whitecaps FC versus LA Galaxy from The Home Depot Center in Carson, California, kicks off at 7:30 p.m. PT and can be seen live on TSN and Bell mobile devices. 'Caps fans can also listen to Saturday’s match live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 5:30 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match at around 9:30 p.m. PT. Fans can also follow Saturday’s match on Twitter @WhitecapsMatch.
Mid-term report cards will soon be out for many MLS clubs, and Whitecaps FC should anticipate some very good marks after a tough first season in North America’s top flight in 2011. This will include a valuable haul of seven points from a possible nine during their recent three-game stretch on Bell Pitch at BC Place. Yet, there is a sense of disappointment that all nine points were not taken after claiming the lead against the Red Bulls before New York earned a late draw on Canada’s west coast. The immediate task now for Vancouver is three Western Conference clashes on the road and against clubs looking to jump into the MLS Cup Playoff positions. It offers Rennie’s side an opportunity to add more distance behind those clubs in the standings and maintain the pressure on Western Conference high-flyers Real Salt Lake and San Jose Earthquakes.
Whitecaps FC will have youngster Darren Mattocks available for the trip to Southern California after the speedy Jamaican was suspended from Wednesday’s draw following his sending off versus Colorado Rapids last weekend. Having put in some promising displays in recent games, the 21-year-old could give the Galaxy’s backline something to think about on Saturday, as Mattocks should enjoy the expansive confines of The Home Depot Center pitch.
The ‘Caps will be without goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre and striker Atiba Harris (both knee), as well as youngster Omar Salgado (foot) this weekend. Midfielder Matt Watson (ankle) remains listed as doubtful.
Carrying the title of defending MLS Cup champions, LA have struggled to fire on all cylinders this season. A surprise defeat to Toronto FC in the 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals last March highlighted their struggles to keep the ball out of their own net, with Bruce Arena’s side trying different backline combinations to make up for the absence of centre back Omar Gonzalez, who is sidelined with an off-season knee injury.
Though LA have conceded 23 goals in MLS so far this season, there has been a sense that the Galaxy’s quality would prompt a turnaround in results. Victories over Portland Timbers and Real Salt Lake this week will have many thinking that LA will start pushing up the Western Conference standings quickly. Two of the Galaxy’s three Designated Players have key roles in how LA’s season will unfold. American star Landon Donovan leads the Galaxy with four goals, while soccer icon David Beckham leads the club with five assists. With Robbie Keane set to return from international duty with Republic of Ireland at this year’s UEFA European Championship (EURO 2012), few may fancy a meeting with the Galaxy in the weeks ahead.
LA are nursing several injury concerns at present. Defenders Andrew Boyens (sports hernia) and Leonardo (knee) remain sidelined, as does midfielder Dan Keat (knee) and strikers Edson Buddle (knee) and Adam Cristman (concussion). Three players are listed as questionable - defender Bryan Gaul (facial fracture), midfielder Hector Jimenez, and striker Pat Noonan (both quad).
Saturday’s match will be the third competitive meeting between Whitecaps FC and the Galaxy, with LA winning both of last season’s MLS encounters. On July 30, 2011, LA ran out convincing 4-0 winners over Vancouver at Empire Field. Two goals by Landon Donovan led the Galaxy to victory, with Sean Franklin and Cristman also finding the scoresheet for the visitors. The Galaxy followed that with a 3-0 home win over Whitecaps FC on September 17, 2011. Two goals by Mike Magee and a second-half strike by Keane gave LA a comfortable win at The Home Depot Center.
Prior to 2011, Whitecaps FC and the Galaxy faced each other in two friendly contests when Vancouver were a North American second division club. On November 7, 2007, a crowd of 48,172 filled BC Place to see the 'Caps draw 0-0 with LA, while on May 13, 2008, Vancouver defeated the Galaxy 2-1 in front of 37,104 fans at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta.
Whitecaps FC also have prior history of playing clubs from the ‘City of Angels’. During the days of the old North American Soccer League, Whitecaps FC played Los Angeles Aztecs 19 times between 1974 and 1981. The 'Caps registered a 10W-9L overall record and a 3W-7L record versus the Aztecs in LA. Carl Valentine was Whitecaps FC's all-time leading scorer against the Aztecs with four goals, while Bob Lenarduzzi scored two goals against LA during that era. Then in the days of the old American Professional Soccer League, Vancouver played 10 times versus Los Angeles Salsa between 1993 and 1994. They registered a 3W-7L overall record and a 2W-2L record in LA. Between 1974 and 2011, Whitecaps FC have an all-time record of 13W-18L-0D versus clubs from LA and a 5W-10L-0D all-time record in the ‘City of Angels’.
There are several connections between Whitecaps FC and the Galaxy. ‘Caps goalkeeper Joe Cannon played for LA in 2007 and was teammates with Donovan at the Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes. Keane and Vancouver’s Young-Pyo Lee were teammates at English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur FC. The Galaxy trio of goalkeepers Bill Gaudette and Josh Saunders, as well as defender Bryan Jordan all played against Whitecaps FC at the North American second division level. Arena and Whitecaps FC director of soccer operations Tom Soehn are former D.C. United head coaches, while Jordan Harvey, Brad Knighton, and Sebastien Le Toux were teammates with LA goalkeeper Brian Perk at Philadelphia Union. ‘Caps centre back Michael Boxall and Galaxy midfielder Dan Keat are New Zealand internationals.
As Western Conference rivals, Whitecaps FC will play the Galaxy two more times this regular season. Vancouver hosts LA at BC Place on Wednesday, July 18, before playing the Galaxy for a second time at The Home Depot Center on Saturday, September 1.
Following their first regular season meeting with the Galaxy, Whitecaps FC will remain on the road to start the month of July, as they visit Colorado Rapids for a Western Conference re-match on Wednesday, July 4. Kickoff from Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado, is set for 6:30 p.m. PT and can be seen live on Sportsnet ONE and Bell mobile devices. 'Caps fans can also listen to the July 4 match live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 4:30 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match at around 8:30 p.m. PT. Fans can also follow the July 4 match on Twitter @WhitecapsMatch.
Whitecaps FC single match tickets for all remaining 2012 regular season home matches are now on sale. 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.