Looking to claim their first result on the road this season, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (1W-4L-3D) take on Eastern Conference club Chicago Fire (1W-3L-3D) in Major League Soccer action on Saturday evening.
Following a dramatic midweek draw with arch-rivals Montreal Impact in this year's Nutrilite Canadian Championship (NCC) semifinals, Whitecaps FC continue their busy month of May by visiting Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, for a first-ever meeting with the Fire. Saturday's match also sees two clubs searching for their second league win of the season.
Saturday's match between Whitecaps FC and Chicago Fire from Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, kicks off at 5:30 p.m. PT and is live on Rogers Sportsnet Pacific, Bell mobile devices and free online this weekend at MLS MatchDay Live. 'Caps fans can also listen to the May 7 contest live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 3:30 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match at around 7:30 p.m. PT.
After an emotional Voyageurs Cup clash with Montreal, in which the 'Caps needed extra time to defeat the Impact 2-1 on aggregate and advance to the two-match final versus MLS rivals Toronto FC, head coach Teitur Thordarson will aim to get his squad firmly focused on ending the club's winless run in MLS at seven games. The Icelandic coach indicated after Wednesday's match that he would look to make changes to his line-up in order to keep his side as fresh as possible through this busy spell of league and Canadian Championship games. The midweek draw with Montreal was the first of seven matches that Vancouver will play in May, with the 'Caps playing every Wednesday night this month.
While it is a challenging schedule for the Blue and White, Thordarson has been boosted the return of several players from recent injury problems. Centre backs Mouloud Akloul and Greg Janicki are working their way back to full match fitness, as is speedy midfielder Shea Salinas. Striker Eric Hassli is available after missing last weekend's MLS defeat at Columbus Crew through suspension. The big Frenchman played the first half of Wednesday's game alongside Omar Salgado, who put in another good effort against the Impact after starting the Columbus match last Saturday. The availability of players provides options for Thordarson and at a time when the depth of his squad will need to carry the 'Caps through this busy spell.
Whitecaps FC will be without striker Atiba Harris (knee) and midfielders Michael Nanchoff (groin) and John Thorrington (calf) for the club's visit to Chicago. Captain Jay DeMerit is doubtful, as the United States international continues to recover from a groin strain.
It has been a turbulent start to the season for Chicago. Going into this weekend's home match with Whitecaps FC, the Fire are winless in their last five league games, with their lone victory coming at home to Sporting Kansas City on March 26. With the Illinois outfit missing the MLS Cup Playoffs last term, there will be expectations on the club's Mexican head coach Carlos de los Cobos to turn their fortunes around in 2011.
Chicago's squad includes players that have appeared against Whitecaps FC in previous seasons. Goalkeeper Jon Conway played against Vancouver as a member of Toronto FC in last season's Nutrilite Canadian Championship, while fellow keeper Alec Dufty (Athletic Club of St. Louis) and midfielder Daniel Paladini (Carolina RailHawks) faced Vancouver in the USSF D-2 Pro League in 2010. New faces to arrive in The Windy City this season include the Uruguayan attacking duo of Diego Chaves and Gaston Puerari. They were joined this week by Colombian youth international Cristian Nazarit, who joined the Fire on a free transfer from Colombia's Independiente Santa Fe. One of Chicago's more influential players is midfielder Marco Pappa. The Guatemalan international has registered three goals and an assist in seven starts this season.
Chicago are suffering through an injury bug at present, with four players set to miss the visit of Vancouver. Defender Steven Kinney (Achilles), midfielders Mike Banner (Achilles) and Michael Videira (concussion), as well as striker Gabriel Ferrari (hamstring) are all sidelined. A further four Fire players are listed as questionable for this weekend. They include defenders Cory Gibbs (hamstring) and Josip Mikulic (clavicle contusion), as well as midfielders Marko Maric (ankle) and Logan Pause (hamstring).
While Saturday's match is the first-ever meeting between Whitecaps FC and the Fire, the Blue and White played former North American Soccer League (NASL) side Chicago Sting 16 times between 1975 and 1984, with the 'Caps registering nine wins and seven defeats during that time. This included an all-time record of four wins and four defeats against the Sting in Chicago. Among those matches were Vancouver's final three games in the old NASL. Both Whitecaps FC and the Sting met in the playoff semifinals in 1984, with Chicago winning the best-of-three series two games to one. Whitecaps FC and the Fire meet again this season at Empire Field on Sunday, August 7.
Four members of Whitecaps FC have strong connections with the Fire and The Windy City. Director of soccer operations Tom Soehn is not only a native of Chicago, he also enjoyed a successful playing career with the Fire. Soehn led the club to MLS Cup and Lamar Hunt US Open Cup success in the club's first season of existence in 1998 before helping the Fire to another US Open Cup title in 2000. From 2001 to 2003, Soehn served as Chicago's assistant coach. 'Caps assistant coach Denis Hamlett spent 12 years on the coaching staff with Chicago. This included two seasons as Fire head coach in 2008 and 2009.
Before joining Whitecaps FC, Thorrington spent six seasons (2005 - 2010) as a member of the Fire, while DeMerit played the 2001 United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League season with Chicago Fire Premier and had a stellar four-year NCAA Division I career at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
HOME TO EARTHQUAKES
Following this weekend's away match to the Fire in Chicago, Whitecaps FC return to Bell Pitch at Empire Field to face Western Conference rivals San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday, May 11, 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 individual match tickets for the club's inaugural MLS season.
Whitecaps FC's home match versus San Jose Earthquakes can also be seen live on Rogers Sportsnet ONE and Bell mobile devices at 7 p.m. PT. 'Caps fans can also listen to the May 11 contest 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.
Whitecaps FC fans now have the option of purchasing three exciting new match packs. Starting at just $159, the match pack options - GOING HOLLYWOOD, I (HEART) NY, LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR? - all include the Manchester City FC friendly match, valued at $60, and four coveted MLS matches. Aside from season tickets, which also include the Manchester City game, match packs are currently the only way to secure a ticket to the July 18 international friendly. For additional information on match packs, visit whitecapsfc.com/matchpacks.