VANCOUVER, BC – The 2013 Major League Soccer season is coming to a close for Vancouver Whitecaps FC, but there are no shortage of storylines heading into Sunday’s regular season finale at BC Place.
After seeing their playoff hopes comes to a heartbreaking end October 19 in Colorado, the ‘Caps are hoping to go out with a bang in a rematch with the Rapids this weekend.
Here are five reasons you don’t want to miss the match.
Supporters welcome Whitecaps FC players at the airport
5. Fan Appreciation
The ‘Caps will celebrate Fan Appreciation Night on Sunday to thank fans for their unwavering support over the 2013 season.
Fittingly, the one millionth fan to attend a Whitecaps FC Major League Soccer match will walk through the gates on Sunday and receive a special prize package. Also of note, there will be a Cascadia Cup presentation prior to kickoff. This is the first time the ‘Caps have been crowned Cascadia Cup champions since joining MLS.
“We just want to appreciate our fans and make sure we realize how much we’re thankful for all the support they’ve given us,” Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie told reporters earlier this week. “They’ve been unwavering in that. Even coming back from the last game, after the disappointment, there were many of them there at the airport singing, chanting and supporting us. We owe them a lot and we want to make sure that we put on a really good performance for them.”
Manneh curls it in from deep for fourth goal in two matches
4. Rookie battle
Red-hot Whitecaps FC striker Kekuta Manneh and Rapids rookie Deshorn Brown put on quite the show last weekend at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park – setting the stage for an encore Sunday at BC Place.
Manneh opened the scoring for the ‘Caps with a world-class strike in the 32nd minute, but Brown responded with a goal and assist in the second half to carry Colorado to victory.
Both players are considered to be among the league’s brightest young players. Manneh, 18, has now scored four goals in his last two matches – for a total of six on the season. Brown, 22, leads all rookies with 10 goals.
“Confidence just keeps coming every single game and at practice … I just need to keep working hard,” Manneh told reporters earlier this week.
One on one with Homegrown defender Sam Adekugbe
3. Defender’s debut
After two successful seasons with Whitecaps FC’s Residency program, the 18-year-old joined the club’s first team in August but has yet to dress in an MLS match. That said, Adekugbe impressed in MLS Reserve League play this past season. The Calgary native contributed a goal and an assist in a 4-0 win over Seattle Sounders FC Reserves on July 7.
“I think he can be a starter in MLS,” Rennie told reporters earlier this week.
The British-born fullback, who recently became a permanent resident of Canada, earned his first call-up to the Canadian senior men’s national team in September.
15-second Camilo highlight package from the 2013 season
2. Golden Boot chase
With 19 goals on the season, Camilo is one of three players in the running to claim the MLS Golden Boot as the league’s leading goalscorer. The Brazilian trails co-leaders Marco Di Vaio and Mike Magee by just one goal going into the weekend and currently holds the tiebreaker over both players with six assists.
“We’ll have to get him as many opportunities as we can,” Rennie told reporters of Camilo’s Golden Boot chase. “I’m sure he’ll be shooting from everywhere.”
Winning the MLS Golden Boot would only add to what’s been an all-star season for Camilo. Among his accolades, Camilo has been named MLS Player of the Week on three occasions, MLS Player of the Month in July, and earned his first selection to the MLS All-Star Game.
As far as recognition from the club, the 5-foot-7 striker already took home the Dominic Mobilio Golden Boot as the team’s leading goalscorer in 2013 and was named and BMO Player of the Year – the second time he was won both awards.
Highlights from YP Lee's two-year tenure at Whitecaps FC
1. End of an era
A storied 14-year professional career, which has included three World Cup appearances as well as stints in the top leagues of the Netherlands, England and Germany, will come to an end on Sunday as Young-Pyo Lee confirmed this week he would retire following the season.
Going into Sunday’s regular season finale, the South Korean legend has started 29 of 31 MLS appearances with Whitecaps FC this season and is tied for second on the team with six assists – three of which have come in the last five matches. In total, the veteran right back has a goal and 10 assists in 64 MLS appearances over the last two seasons.
“It will be the most memorable game in my life,” said Lee, who will be honoured prior to kickoff. “I’m a happy guy. I learned so many things throughout my career, much more than I had expected when I was young. It is a great time to finish with a great team and great people. I deeply appreciate our fans, my teammates, and all of the staff in the club. I’m sure Vancouver Whitecaps FC will remain in my mind as my team forever.”
Kickoff for Sunday’s match is set for 5 p.m. at BC Place. Tickets are still available at whitecapsfc.com/tickets.