VANCOUVER, BC – Friday may be the first time Vancouver Whitecaps FC face Los Angeles Football Club in MLS, but there are no shortage of connections between the two clubs.
In addition to the former ‘Caps on LAFC’s inaugural roster, Steven Beitashour and Jordan Harvey, many Whitecaps FC players have played alongside members of the opposition for their respective national teams and will have to forget about any shared friendship for 90 minutes come Friday.
The Costa Ricans
Whitecaps FC captain Kendall Waston will be squaring up against LAFC forward and his Costa Rican international teammate Marco Ureña.
The pair played together frequently in World Cup Qualifiers for the upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, with both Waston and Ureña playing in the match against Honduras back in October that saw Los Ticos clinch qualification after a headed goal from Waston in the 95th minute.
“Obviously I know him well, we played together a lot,” Waston said. “He’s a player that likes to run behind the centre backs, he likes to play and find space in between the channels, and he’s good in possession of the ball. He’s a goalscorer, and it will be a nice occasion to play against him.”
This won’t be the first time LAFC attacking midfielder/forward Carlos Vela will be crossing paths with gritty Whitecaps FC midfielder Efraín Juárez. After enjoying esteemed careers in Europe that saw the pair play each other a handful of times, the two will be squaring up for the first time in MLS.
Juárez said he’s known Vela, his former Mexican international teammate, for about 15 years.
“We were together in the youth national teams and we went together to the World Cup in 2010,” Juárez said. “He’s a really good friend of mine so it’s going to be nice. We played against each other in Spain when he was at Real Sociedad and I was with Zaragoza, in the UK when he was with Arsenal and I was with Celtic … and now it’s another league, another country so hopefully we can beat him.”
'Caps midfielder Aly Ghazal will look to feature this Friday after returning from injury – and there’s a small chance he comes up against his former Egyptian international teammate Omar Gaber, who returned to full training this week after missing the first four matches with a knee sprain.
“We played together since the U-18 national team until the A national team,” Ghazal said. “Even the coach, Bob Bradley, was the first one to call me for the Egyptian national team, so I know them well.”
In fact, Ghazal said that Gaber sought his opinion about MLS when he was considering a move to LAFC this past offseason.
“Once he got contacted by LA, he called me to ask about the league and how it’s going there,” Ghazal said. “To be fair, the league is good. When you come here and see it, it’s really strong. Stronger than some leagues in Europe, to be honest. But when you’re there, you don’t know a lot about it.”
There should be a healthy contingent of Canadian players on the pitch come Friday.
Midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye and defender Dejan Jakovic have both played important roles for LAFC so far this season – as have the likes of Alphonso Davies, Marcel de Jong, and Russell Teibert for the ‘Caps. All five players represented Canada at last year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Kickoff for Friday’s match is set for 7:01 p.m. PT sharp at BC Place. The match will be broadcast live on TSN and TSN 1040 radio and there are still tickets available.