Five things to look forward to in 2019

Big Canada flag at BC Place

VANCOUVER, BC – It’s shaping up to be an eventful year for Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Canada’s national teams. From championship celebrations to major international competitions, there’s certainly a lot to look forward to in 2019. 

New era for Whitecaps FC

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A new era for Vancouver Whitecaps FC is upon us.

The ‘Caps are sure to have a distinctly different look and feel in 2019 with new head coach Marc Dos Santos at the helm. It didn’t take long for Dos Santos to put his stamp on the roster after taking the job in November, parting ways with several players and acquiring goalkeepers Maxime Crépeau and Zac MacMath, left back/winger Victor “PC” Giro, and midfielder Andy Rose.

And he’s just getting started.

The Canadian head coach, who has been scouring the globe for prospective players with his staff, is targeting specific qualities in each of the positions that need to be filled. In simple terms, he wants his team to be dynamic in attack and aggressive in the loss of possession, and the players need to fit the bill. 

Dos Santos has a clear plan in place and I’m very much looking forward to seeing it come to fruition over the course of the season and beyond.

Whitecaps FC will kick off the 2019 MLS season at home against Minnesota United on March 2, followed by a visit to Real Salt Lake on March 9. The complete MLS regular season is expected to be announced in the coming days and players report for preseason on January 21.

Celebrating ‘79

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As we look forward to the future of Whitecaps FC, it’s also a time to celebrate its past.

The 2019 season marks the 40th anniversary of Vancouver’s historic 1979 NASL Soccer Bowl run, when the ‘Caps famously knocked off the mighty New York Cosmos in an epic semifinal series and the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the final en route to the city’s first major North American championship.

The victory and subsequent parade, which saw as many as 100,000 people gather downtown to salute their heroes, remains one of the greatest moments in Vancouver sports history.

It deserves a celebration, and that’s exactly what’s in store.

Concacaf Gold Cup

Five things to look forward to in 2019 -

The Canadian men’s national team did not lose a game or concede a goal in 2018, outscoring their opponents by a combined margin of 15-0.

But the true test will come this summer.

Barring a major upset when Canada concludes their Concacaf Nations League qualifying campaign on March 24 in Vancouver, the Red and White will compete in the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup against the best national teams from North America, Central America, and the Caribbean.

It’s a competition that has historically been dominated by perennial favourites Mexico and the defending champion U.S., but Canada is considered to be one of the up-and-coming teams in the region. In the most recent Gold Cup back in 2017, Canada reached the quarterfinals in what was a coming-out party of sorts for Alphonso Davies, who won the tournament Golden Boot.

Can they better that performance two years later?

There’s a lot of optimism surrounding John Herdman’s side at the moment, thanks largely to the likes of Davies and fellow youngsters Jonathan David (KAA Gent), Liam Millar (Liverpool FC U-23), and Ballou Tabla (FC Barcelona B) – among others. Hope has certainly been restored.

And a strong showing at this summer’s Gold Cup will only help the cause.

The 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup will run from June 15 to July 7 across 15 venues in the U.S., as well as a pair of group-stage double headers in Costa Rica and a yet-to-be-named Caribbean location.

FIFA Women’s World Cup

Five things to look forward to in 2019 -

After back-to-back Olympic bronze medals, Canada’s women’s national team has established itself as a true contender on the world stage. But they don’t just want to be one of the best.

They want to be the best.

And they will have an opportunity to prove their worth this summer at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.

Canada has been drawn into Group E with Cameroon, New Zealand, and Netherlands.

Their roster could feature Whitecaps FC Girls Elite Super REX striker Jordyn Huitema and other graduates of the program, and it will most certainly feature Canadian legend Christine Sinclair. Remarkably, the Burnaby native is now just seven goals back of Abby Wambach for the all-time international goalscoring record, which is another storyline I’ll certainly be watching this year.

The 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup runs from June 7 to July 7.

Phonzie at Bayern

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When the calendar turned to 2019 on Tuesday, Alphonso Davies officially became the property of FC Bayern Munich. While he’s no longer a member of the ‘Caps, many here in Vancouver and across Canada will still be excited to follow his progress.

Davies will forever be Vancouver’s homegrown hero.

This is a kid – a Canadian kid – who got his start at the club at age 14. And now he’s set to begin the next step of his young career with one of the biggest clubs in the world.

His success is good for Vancouver. Good for MLS. Good for Canada.

And we’ll all be rooting him on.

The first opportunity for Davies to feature is January 13, when Bayern participates in the 2019 Telekom Cup against Fortuna Düsseldorf, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Hertha BSC. Bayern will then resume Bundesliga play on January 18 against Hoffenheim.