VANCOUVER, BC – Home sweet home.
For the first time in over four months, Vancouver Whitecaps FC return to BC Place on Thursday night to host New York Red Bulls in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. PT and tickets are still available.
“It’s a great landmark for the club to be in this position,” Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson told reporters this week. “We want to try and get as far as we can. We’ve got a good opportunity, but we’ve got to take care of business. We know it’s going to be a difficult game. We know they’re a good team, but so are we.”
After earning a 1-1 draw in the first leg last week at Red Bull Arena – a match that featured a Kekuta Manneh goal, David Ousted penalty save, and Cristian Techera red card – the ‘Caps need a win or scoreless draw to advance to the semifinals against either Pumas UNAM or Tigres UANL from Mexico. Another 1-1 draw, meanwhile, would send the match to extra time and penalties if needed.
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Double debut? It’s possible we could see two newcomers make their Whitecaps FC debuts on Thursday: Designated Player striker Fredy Montero and U.S. international winger/forward Brek Shea. Both players have quite the pedigree, including three MLS all-star selections for Montero. The Colombian, who didn’t have a preseason training camp, has been working hard to get up to full speed the last few weeks – and he’s itching to get onto the field for the first time. “Hopefully I can step onto the pitch as soon as possible and start scoring goals,” he said this week. “That’s what I’m here for.”
History in the making: As the ‘Caps have been saying all week, this match is about making history for the club. The ‘Caps have never reached the semifinals of this tournament. It’s a massive opportunity to put the club on the map – and test their mettle against one of the top teams from Mexico.
Stopping BWP: Reigning MLS Golden Boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips has scored in his last two matches against Vancouver, including last week's first leg. Suffice to say, shutting him down will be key to Robinson's gameplan.
Head start: After dropping their last two season openers, Thursday’s match gives Whitecaps FC an opportunity to start 2017 off on the right foot heading into Sunday’s MLS opener vs. Philadelphia Union. A positive result against New York could give the ‘Caps the momentum they need to go on a little bit of a run – not only in the Champions League but also in league play.
Erik Hurtado (caution accumulation) and Cristian Techera (red card in first leg) are both unavailable for Thursday’s second leg. Also unavailable is Mauro Rosales due to his participation with FC Dallas in this edition of the CONCACAF Champions League.
Should they advance, the 'Caps would face Pumas UNAM or Tigres UANL from Mexico’s Liga MX in the two-leg semifinals between March 14 and April 6, 2017. The two-leg final will then take place between April 19 and April 26, 2017. Meanwhile, Whitecaps FC open their MLS regular season on Sunday against Philadelphia Union (6:30 p.m. PT at BC Place – tickets still available).