Looking to bounce back from last weekend's defeat to the Dynamo in Houston, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (1W-2L-2D) return home to meet the first Western Conference opponent of their inaugural Major League Soccer season, as winless Chivas USA (0W-2L-2D) make their maiden visit to Vancouver this Saturday afternoon.
After starting the season with five matches versus Eastern Conference clubs, Teitur Thordarson's side now face a conference rival at Empire Field this weekend, with Saturday's match being the first of two home games for the Blue and White. The following Saturday, 2010 MLS Cup finalists FC Dallas come to East Vancouver's Pacific National Exhibition grounds to face Whitecaps FC.
Saturday's match between Whitecaps FC and Chivas USA at Empire Field 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). Visit whitecapsfc.com/single-match-tickets for more information on individual match tickets for the club's inaugural MLS season.
Whitecaps FC's home match versus Chivas USA can also be seen live on Rogers Sportsnet and Bell mobile devices at 4 p.m. PT. 'Caps fans can also listen to the April 16 contest 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.
The rigours and emotions of last week's three league games seemed to catch up to Vancouver in Texas last Sunday. A 3-1 defeat to the Dynamo at Houston's Robertson Stadium made for sober viewing for 'Caps fans, but also showed the challenges of playing three competitive games in eight days in professional soccer. As a result, Thordarson's players had Monday and Tuesday off before a Wednesday strength and conditioning session.
Whitecaps FC's attention now moves to a very important conference match-up, where a victory over Chivas USA would help to move Vancouver up the Western Conference standings. A win would also boost confidence ahead of a busy schedule that includes an important two-leg semifinal series versus arch-rivals Montreal Impact in this year's Nutrilite Canadian Championship on Wednesday, April 27, and Wednesday, May 4. The quest for the Voyageurs Cup title offers Whitecaps FC the opportunity to play in the CONCACAF Champions League, and potentially, a FIFA Club World Cup.
Whitecaps FC are without MLS SuperDraft first-round pick Michael Nanchoff (groin) and centre back Greg Janicki (hip) for Saturday's match, while several key players are listed as questionable. Captain Jay DeMerit (groin) only played the first half of Sunday's loss in Houston, while Canadian international Terry Dunfield is still favouring the groin problem that forced him out in the first half of the April 6 home draw with New England Revolution. Midfielders Shea Salinas (knee) and John Thorrington (calf) are also tending to their injury concerns.
Owned by Mexican businessman and film producer Jorge Vergara Madrigal, Club Deportivo Chivas USA are an offshoot of Mexican giants Club Deportivo (Chivas) Guadalajara. They make Southern California their home, with the club sharing The Home Depot Center with Western Conference arch-rivals Los Angeles Galaxy. In their seventh MLS season, Robin Fraser's side have had a slow start to the 2011 campaign, with The Goats still in search of their first win of the season.
Fraser is in his first spell as an MLS head coach after being appointed to the Chivas USA role on January 4. As the club's sixth head coach, Fraser has been tasked with trying to get the club back to the postseason after Chivas USA missed the playoffs for only the second time in club history last year. The 44-year-old soon shaped his squad with several new faces, including experienced MLS campaigners Jimmy Conrad and Alejandro Moreno. Defenders Heath Pearce (FC Dallas) and Andrew Boyens (New York Red Bulls) provide solid options in Fraser's defensive backline, while youngster Zarek Valentine and Ecuadorian striker Victor Estupiñan were the club's picks in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft. Marcos Mondaini, meanwhile, is the first Argentine player to play for Chivas USA after arriving on loan from South American giants Boca Juniors.
Fraser's squad also includes veteran goalkeeper Zach Thornton. The 37-year-old knows all about MLS, having appeared in all 16 seasons in the league. They also have a Canadian connection in defender Ante Jazic. The native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, is in his sixth MLS season, having spent his entire league spell in Southern California with Chivas USA and LA Galaxy. Both Jazic and midfielder Nick LaBrocca have previously played Whitecaps FC as members of the Galaxy and Toronto FC respectively.
Chivas USA are without striker Tristan Bowen (ankle) and midfielder Blair Gavin (hamstring) for this weekend's match, while Conrad (concussion), Paulo Nagamura (calf) and Mariano Trujillo (hamstring) are listed as questionable.
Saturday's game is the first competitive meeting between Whitecaps FC and Chivas USA, although both clubs met in a preseason friendly in Casa Grande, Arizona, on February 18. The 'Caps suffered a late 1-0 defeat to the Southern California outfit after a last-minute strike by Jesús Padilla. Both these clubs will meet again this season at The Home Depot Center in Carson, California, on Wednesday, June 1.
While there is little playing history between the two clubs, there are many ties between both sets of players. Whitecaps FC striker Atiba Harris and defender/midfielder Kevin Harmse are former Chivas USA players, while youngster Omar Salgado was in the youth system at Mexico's Chivas Guadalajara and a United States U-20 international teammate of Chivas USA midfielder Bryan de la Fuente. Moreno was a Whitecaps FC selection in the 2010 MLS Expansion Draft before he was traded to The Goats. Centre back Michael Boxall is teammates with Chivas USA's Andrew Boyens and Simon Elliott in the New Zealand national team, while the 'Caps pair of goalkeeper Joe Cannon and right back Jonathan Leathers are former MLS teammates with Chivas USA captain Conrad. Nanchoff played with Chivas USA's Blair Gavin, Zarek Valentin, and Ben Zemanski at the University of Akron, while Harris and Pearce were teammates at FC Dallas.
NEXT UP: FC DALLAS
Following this weekend's home match against Chivas USA, Whitecaps FC return to Empire Field to face another Western Conference opponent in FC Dallas on Saturday, April 23, 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). Visti whitecapsfc.com for more information on individual match tickets for the club's inaugural MLS season.
Whitecaps FC's home match versus FC Dallas can also be seen live on Rogers Sportsnet and Bell mobile devices at 4 p.m. PT. 'Caps fans can also listen to the April 23 contest 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.
Whitecaps FC Major League Soccer 2011 season tickets are available at a pro-rated price, starting at $268. To secure a seat and for additional information about Whitecaps FC MLS season tickets, suites, and loge boxes, call 604.669.9283 or visit whitecapsfc.com.