Coming off a two-week break, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (10W-11L-7D) return to Major League Soccer action with an important Western Conference encounter at FC Dallas (8W-12L-9D) on Saturday evening.
This month’s international break has given Martin Rennie’s side the chance to reflect on a difficult stretch of results over the past month. Standing four points above Dallas in the fifth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference standings, this weekend’s trip to Frisco, Texas, could play a pivotal role in the Blue and White’s pursuit of reaching the postseason for the first time as an MLS club.
Vancouver’s previous two meetings with Dallas this season saw a split of results on Bell Pitch at BC Place. On April 21, Camilo Sanvezzo’s early goal gave the ‘Caps a 1-0 home win over Dallas before The Hoops avenged that loss with a 2-0 win over Whitecaps FC on August 15. Second-half goals by Fabián Castillo and substitute Jonathan Top gave the Texas-based outfit all three points in downtown Vancouver.
Whitecaps FC versus FC Dallas from FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas, kicks off at 5:30 p.m. PT and can be seen live on Sportsnet Pacific and Bell mobile devices. 'Caps fans can also listen to Saturday’s match live on TEAM 1040 radio (change from TEAM 1410) and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 3:30 p.m. PT. TEAM 1040 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match at around 7:30 p.m. PT. Fans can also follow Saturday’s match on Twitter @WhitecapsMatch.
While nations all over the world took their next steps towards Brazil and the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Whitecaps FC used the down time to assess the tough spell they have endured in the last few weeks. What the extended break afforded Rennie’s squad was the chance to put their emphasis on the challenges ahead, starting with this weekend’s crucial clash at FC Dallas Stadium, which is nearing a sell-out for the game. Saturday is the last game of a four-match spell on the road, with the ‘Caps looking forward to four straight matches at home after this weekend.
The break from MLS action not only afforded Whitecaps FC some rest and recovery, it gave some players a chance to work on their match fitness. Recent acquisition Tiago Ulisses has progressed well since arriving in Vancouver a couple of weeks ago. The Brazilian looked comfortable as a holding midfielder in Monday’s reserve team match and should come into consideration for first-team action very soon. There is also a further boost in the return to full training of youngster Omar Salgado this week. The United States youth international saw his season halted by a foot fracture, while on international duty back in early June.
Rennie will also hope that the quartet of players that were on World Cup qualifying duty return to Vancouver with no adverse effects. He will be pleased to see striker Kenny Miller earn the confidence of scoring his 17th goal for Scotland on Tuesday, while Darren Mattocks and Dane Richards played supporting roles in two intriguing qualifiers against the Americans. On the injury front, Whitecaps FC centre back Andy O'Brien and midfielder Gershon Koffie are listed as probable with right adductor strains.
It is hard not to underline the importance of this weekend’s match for Schellas Hyndman’s side, with The Hoops very much in the playoff picture in the west after a productive set of results. Much of that turnaround coincided with the return to fitness of the dynamic Colombian David Ferreira, who the Texas club rely on for much of their playmaking abilities. Dallas, however, were left frustrated by their last two league performances - a defeat at resurgent LA Galaxy and home draw with the equally in-form Seattle Sounders FC.
Hyndman will likely call upon the likes of striker Blas Perez, midfielder Julian de Guzman, and winger Brek Shea to face Vancouver, despite their recent spells away on World Cup qualifying duty with their national teams. Perez (Panama) and de Guzman (Canada) were adversaries over the last few days, while Shea appeared as a substitute in both of the USA’s two matches versus Mattocks, Richards, and Jamaica. Speedy Colombian youngster Castillo is also available after overcoming a recent hamstring problem.
Dallas will be without centre back Ugo Ihemelu (concussion) and fellow defender Alex Lee (lower abdominal) for the weekend clash with Whitecaps FC. Defender Zach Loyd (lower back) and midfielder Ricardo Villar (foot) are listed as questionable.
Saturday’s match will be the fifth meeting between Whitecaps FC and FC Dallas, with both clubs first playing each other in MLS last season. The inaugural match-up at Empire Field on April 23, 2011, saw the Texas outfit come from a goal down to win 2-1. Alain Rochat gave the 'Caps a 1-0 halftime lead with his first-ever goal for Vancouver, but a George John equalizer early in the second half set up substitute Eric Avila's winning strike. FC Dallas followed that result with a 2-0 home win over Whitecaps FC on October 15, 2011. Goals by Marvin Chavez and Shea gave The Hoops all three points at FC Dallas Stadium.
WATCH: Brad Knighton
Before joining MLS last year, Whitecaps FC played teams from Dallas, Texas, in the old North American Soccer League (NASL), with Vancouver registering an 11W-5L-0D record versus Dallas Tornado between 1974 and 1981. This included an away record of 4W-4L-0D. During Whitecaps FC's run to the 1979 NASL Soccer Bowl title, Vancouver eliminated the Tornado in the National Conference playoff quarterfinals. The weekend match will also be the 52nd time that Whitecaps FC have played a club from the state of Texas. In The Lone Star State, Vancouver have registered an all-time record of 7W-14L-2D for an overall record of 30W-17L-4D all-time.
There are several connections between Vancouver and Dallas. Whitecaps FC director of soccer operations Tom Soehn played for FC Dallas (known then as Dallas Burn) from 1996 to 1998 and was part of the team that won the 1997 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup title. In 2010, ‘Caps striker Atiba Harris played a key role in leading FC Dallas to the MLS Cup final. It was that same year that FC Dallas goalkeeper Chris Seitz was teammates with the Whitecaps FC duo of goalkeeper Brad Knighton and left fullback Jordan Harvey at Philadelphia Union. Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Joe Cannon and FC Dallas striker Scott Sealy were teammates at San Jose Earthquakes in 2008 and 2010.
Following this weekend’s trip to Dallas, Whitecaps FC will return home for the next four regular season matches, starting with the second visit of 2012 by Western Conference rivals Colorado Rapids on Sunday, September 23. Kickoff from BC Place is set for 4:30 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.
Whitecaps FC's home match versus Colorado Rapids can also be seen live on Sportsnet Pacific, Sportsnet ONE, and Bell mobile devices at 4:30 p.m. PT. 'Caps fans can also listen to the September 23 match live on TEAM 1410 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 2:30 p.m. PT. TEAM 1410 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match at around 6:30 p.m. PT. Fans can also follow the September 23 match on Twitter @WhitecapsMatch.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC are preparing to launch a special offer for fans on 2013 Season Tickets. To thank fans for their continued support, those who purchase Season Tickets from Saturday, September 22, to Wednesday, October 3, will receive a special signing bonus of 12 per cent off. Fans can take advantage of this offer and renew or purchase their Season Tickets online at whitecapsfc.com or by phone at 604.669.9283.