VANCOUVER, BC – We’re now less than 24 hours away from Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s season opener. There’s no doubt in my mind how much the players will be looking forward to getting the season started and getting that first game under their belt.
The offseason can seem like a long time and there’s nothing the players like more than playing matches.
Getting ready for that first game means the preseason is finally over. It means no more beep tests or grueling runs.
It means now the real work begins.
The opening game of the season brings up a lot of emotions for players and coaches. I remember my first game for the ‘Caps back in 1979 against the Dallas Tornado. I was 20 years old and had been brought in to back up the more seasoned professionals like Willie Johnston.
But 10 minutes into the game, our left back Bob McNab got into an altercation with a Tornado player that got him sent off. Our head coach, Tony Waiters, made the necessary adjustments and moved Bobby Lenarduzzi to left back and decided to put me on the right wing.
We lost the match 2-1, but it was an incredible experience for me to get on the field for that first game. And we all know what happened at the end of the 1979 season.
This is what makes season openers so special – the fact that it’s a fresh start and the expectations are really high to make a push for the playoffs and then challenge to win the MLS Cup. As a player, you’ve worked hard with coaches and your teammates in preseason to find that chemistry and are anxious to find out where you’re at in that first game.
Of course, our ‘Caps are at home so the boys will have the added excitement of playing in front of our wonderful fans.
I remember coming back to Vancouver to play for the 86ers in our home opener in front of a sellout crowd at Swangard Stadium. Just before kickoff, Lenarduzzi (who was the coach at the time) advised me to run to the packed side of the stadium where most of the fans were if I were to score the first goal.
It was 1987 and three years since the ‘Caps had folded. I was excited to be back, as I never thought I’d be playing soccer in Vancouver again.
But the last thought on my mind was scoring a goal – it wasn’t what I was known for. I thought Bobby was just winding me up. As it happened, I cut in from the right wing and hit a scorcher into the top corner of the net – or at least, that’s the way I remember it!
At first, I just stood there surprised but then I suddenly remembered what my coach had said.
As my teammates ran towards me to celebrate the goal, I took off towards the main stands, ran onto the track and started jumping up and down like a mad man. I’m glad there was no camera there to capture it.
Like the players, coaches, and staff, I’m sure we’re all pumped and can’t wait to hear that first whistle to get our 2014 MLS season underway on Saturday. A new head coach, many exciting additions and competition for places is sure to make this season opener another one to remember.
Whitecaps FC begin their 2014 MLS season on March 8 versus New York Red Bulls at BC Place. Season tickets start at just $349 and single-match tickets start at $22, subject to applicable fees. The 'Caps also offer a flexible range of ticket products, including half-season tickets ($244), 5-packs ($149), student season tickets ($199), and a youth soccer half-season ticket ($100). For more information on all Whitecaps FC ticket options, call 604.669.9283 ext. 2 or visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.