Fresh off a two-week extended break, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (9W-7L-7D) return to Major League Soccer action when they host Western Conference rivals Real Salt Lake (13W-8L-3D) on Saturday afternoon.
Martin Rennie’s side enter the last third of the 2012 MLS regular season with a view to avenging last month’s 2-1 defeat to Salt Lake in their last league encounter in Sandy, Utah. Two goals by Alvaro Saborio - the first coming from the penalty spot - gave RSL victory at Rio Tinto Stadium. Darren Mattocks replied for Whitecaps FC, who finished with ten men after goalkeeper Joe Cannon was sent off for handling the ball outside his own box in the second half.
With clubs sharpening their focus on securing spots in this year’s MLS Cup Playoffs, Whitecaps FC are keen to become upwardly mobile by taking some important results, starting with Saturday’s clash versus the second-best club in MLS on Bell Pitch at BC Place.
Saturday's match between Whitecaps FC and Real Salt Lake at BC Place kicks off at 4 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 Real Salt Lake can also be seen live on Sportsnet Pacific, Sportsnet West, and Bell mobile devices at 4 p.m. PT. 'Caps fans can also listen Saturday’s match live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 2 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match at around 6 p.m. PT. Fans can also follow Saturday’s match on Twitter @WhitecapsMatch.
Two-thirds of the way into the season, and Whitecaps FC already have plenty to chronicle in their second MLS campaign. The recent two-week break offered more than the opportunity for rest and recovery from a seven-match run in July, it offered the Blue and White a chance to reflect on their position heading into the last phase of the regular season and the roster changes that have been made this summer. In front of Vancouver is a challenging 11-match schedule that provides the squad with an opportunity for big achievements and ‘Caps supporters with the potential of many exciting moments.
The visit of Salt Lake to Canada’s west coast starts a busy week for Whitecaps FC, who then host FC Dallas on Wednesday night before making the short trip down Interstate 5 on the following Saturday afternoon for a crucial Western Conference encounter versus Cascadia Cup rivals Seattle Sounders FC. These three matches provide the chance to build momentum for the ’Caps, who are looking to solidify their credentials as a top Western Conference club this season. Two players will hope to fulfill those aims after former Republic of Ireland international Andy O’Brien and Brazilian midfielder Tiago Ulisses became Vancouver’s latest additions last week.
Rennie’s side enter the last three months of the regular season in an enviable position from a health point of view. Only youngster Omar Salgado will miss the Salt Lake clash through injury, but his recovery from a right foot fracture suffered more than two months ago in Uruguay with the United States U-20 squad is going well. Salgado will join teammate Cannon in watching this weekend’s match on the sidelines, as the experienced shot-stopper serves a one-match suspension for his red card at RSL nearly two weeks ago. His absence should see Brad Knighton make his first MLS start for Whitecaps FC on Saturday. Fit-again youngster Brian Sylvestre will likely back up Knighton this weekend after appearing in last week’s reserve match at Chivas USA.
After claiming the first encounter of 2012 with Whitecaps FC, Salt Lake endured setbacks in their following two matches on the road. Their aspirations for another CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) run were put under pressure following a 1-0 defeat at Costa Rica’s Club Sport Herediano on July 31. With only three matches remaining in CCL Group Two, Jason Kreis’ side must look to take results, starting with the home clash to Panama’s Tauro FC later this month. Defeat in Central America was followed by a disappointing 1-0 league setback at Rocky Mountain Cup rivals Colorado Rapids on Saturday.
Despite recent results, the Claret and Cobalt boast a potent strike force. Saborio’s two goals against Vancouver last month took the Costa Rican international to 13 league goals and into a tie for second with New York Red Bulls striker Kenny Cooper in the MLS scoring charts. Saborio’s Argentine strike partner Fabian Espindola has registered six goals and four assists in 2012. An MLS All-Star, Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman has also contributed with four goals and four assists this season. Solid defensively, RSL are also led by the vastly experienced goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who is tied with Cannon with eight clean sheets this season.
Salt Lake will be without goalkeeper Lalo Fernandez (wrist), as well as defenders Jamison Olave (hamstring) and Chris Schuler (foot) for Saturday’s match. Goalkeeper Kyle Reynish (rib) and Canadian international Will Johnson (ankle) are listed as probable.
Saturday’s match is the fourth MLS meeting between Whitecaps FC and Salt Lake, with the first two games occurring in 2011. The inaugural league contest took place on June 4, 2011, with RSL defeating Whitecaps FC 2-0 in Sandy, Utah. In what was ‘Caps director of soccer Tom Soehn's second match as interim head coach, RSL took all three points with a first-half goal from Jean Alexandre and a second-half strike from Espindola at Rio Tinto Stadium. Whitecaps FC avenged that defeat in a rescheduled match on October 6, 2011, as they defeated Salt Lake 3-0 in downtown Vancouver. Two penalties by Camilo Sanvezzo and a late strike by Nizar Khalfan earned Whitecaps FC their first MLS victory at BC Place.
Before 2011, both Vancouver and Salt Lake met in preseason friendly action in Casa Grande, Arizona. As a USSF D-2 Pro League side, Whitecaps FC defeated RSL 2-1 at Grande Sports World on February 20, 2010. As an MLS outfit, goals by Russell Teibert and former ‘Caps midfielder Terry Dunfield earned Vancouver a 2-1 victory over Salt Lake at Grande Sports World on February 1, 2011. This preseason, Whitecaps FC drew 1-1 with RSL at Grande Sports World on February 10. Mattocks gave Vancouver the lead before Espindola equalized from the penalty spot in the preseason training match.
There are several connections between both sets of players. In 2006, Atiba Harris became the first player from Saint Kitts & Nevis to sign with Major League Soccer when he joined Salt Lake. RSL midfielder Jonny Steele spent part of the 2010 USSF D-2 Pro League season with Whitecaps FC, making 13 appearances for the Blue & White before moving to FC Tampa Bay (now Tampa Bay Rowdies). In 2011, the former Northern Ireland youth international also played for Rennie at North American Soccer League side Carolina Railhawks, where he made 22 appearances while on loan from FC Tampa Bay. From 1996 to 1998, Soehn and Kreis were teammates at Dallas Burn (now FC Dallas). During that time, the pair won the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup in 1997. ‘Caps goalkeeper Cannon was teammates with the Salt Lake trio of Beckerman, Nat Borchers, and Chris Wingert at Colorado Rapids.
As members of the MLS Western Conference, Saturday’s match is the second of three regular season meetings between Whitecaps FC and Salt Lake in 2012. Both clubs will meet in their final regular season match at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday, October 27.
NEXT UP: FC DALLAS
Following the weekend clash with Salt Lake, Whitecaps FC will then host another Western Conference club in FC Dallas at BC Place on Wednesday evening 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 FC Dallas can also be seen live on TSN and Bell mobile devices at 7 p.m. PT. 'Caps fans can also listen Wednesday’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 at around 9 p.m. PT. Fans can also follow Wednesday’s match on Twitter @WhitecapsMatch.
Customize your Whitecaps FC experience with our 2012 Flex Pack! Starting at $199, Flex Packs include six match tickets in the Aqua, Yellow, or Purple sections at BC Place, and can be used for any MLS regular season home match this season. Offering savings over single match ticket purchases, Flex Packs offer supporters the ability to use any ticket quantity combination. For example, bring six friends to one match or attend three matches with a friend - it’s up to you how you use your Flex Pack! To purchase your Flex Pack, call 604.669.9283 ext. 3, or email email@example.com. For additional information on our new Whitecaps FC Flex Pack, visit whitecapsfc.com/flex-packs.