Davide fist pump

Bite the Big Apple

Riding a four-match unbeaten streak, Vancouver Whitecaps FC host Eastern Conference contenders New York Red Bulls this Wednesday, June 20, at BC Place. This will be the final time the ‘Caps play at home for the next month, as they face their next five opponents on the road.

Wednesday's match will also mark 29 years ago to the day when Whitecaps FC emerged victorious over Seattle Sounders in the first-ever sporting event held at BC Place. A sold-out crowd of 60,342 took in a 2-1 victory for the home side.

If that’s not reason enough to catch the ‘Caps in action, we’ve compiled five facts and questions about the much-anticipated inter-conference showdown that just might peak your interest.

Drum roll, please…

5. So, we meet again

They say there’s nothing sweeter than beating your former club, and Carl Robinson will have the opportunity to do just that on Wednesday — as an assistant coach.

After a distinguished playing career in England, Robinson made the move to MLS in 2007 and spent three seasons with Toronto FC, twice being named the team’s most valuable player, before the Red Bulls acquired him in March 2010.

Before joining Whitecaps FC as an assistant coach in January, Robinson made 11 appearances for the Red Bulls – scoring a goal against TFC in the process.

4. Now or . . . never?

OK, maybe not “never.” But Whitecaps FC only host the Red Bulls, an Eastern Conference MLS side, once every two years. The New York outfit won’t return to Vancouver again until 2014.

With 26 points, the Red Bulls are currently fifth overall in the MLS standings — just one point ahead of the sixth-place ‘Caps. Depending on the results of Wednesday’s MLS action, the Whitecaps could end the night in second place in the MLS Western Conference, and potentially tied for third in the league. 

In their two previous meetings last season, the ‘Caps were undefeated against the Red Bulls, having claimed a draw on both occasions. Can they get their first win on Wednesday?

3. Re-live the rivalry

To this day, it remains one of the greatest moments in Whitecaps FC history.

After Jim McKay of ABC’s Wide World of Sports made his infamous “village of Vancouver” remark following an upset of the New York Cosmos in the deciding mini-game of the 1979 NASL semifinal in New York City, the upstart Whitecaps went on to win the city’s first North American championship with an exciting victory over the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the 1979 Soccer Bowl – also held in New York City.

It could be said that the city of New York got their revenge in 1994, when the New York Rangers defeated the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals — a result this city will never forget.

Of course, there’s not yet much of a history between the ‘Caps and Red Bulls, but the Vancouver-New York rivalry should more than make up for it.

Do the two metropolitan cities have another classic left in them?

2. Meet Barry

Although he’s not eligible to play at BC Place until July 18 against the Los Angeles Galaxy, Barry Robson will be in the house signing autographs on Wednesday.

The experienced Scottish midfielder, who just arrived in Vancouver this past weekend, becomes the second Designated Player on this year’s Whitecaps FC squad – joining striker Eric Hassli. 

His professional career includes stints at Inverness, Forfar Athletic, Dundee United, Celtic, and Middlesbrough. Internationally, the versatile midfielder has recorded 17 caps with the Scottish national team.

Robson will be signing autographs at 7 p.m. in the Bell Box at ‘Caps Kickoff on Terry Fox Plaza. By all accounts, it won’t take long for him to become a fan-favourite in Vancouver — might as well get the party started a little early. 

1. Can he do it again?

Though his good friend and teammate Eric Hassli is regularly credited with the finest goal scored by a member of Whitecaps FC in their young MLS history, Davide Chiumiento’s spinning strike against the Red Bulls last season was nothing to scoff at either.

The world-class tally has attracted over 35,000 views on YouTube and was one of the 2011 MLS Goal of the Year nominees. 

Chiumiento is also coming off one of his best performances of the season, setting up Vancouver’s lone goal against Colorado Rapids this past Saturday, June 16, with a sublime cross that landed perfectly on the foot of striker Sébastien Le Toux.

For Chiumiento, a lot has changed since last season, including his haircut, but the flashy Swiss-Italian midfielder has already once made headlines against the Red Bulls; can he do it again on Wednesday?

Kickoff from BC Place is set for 8 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.