Let the games begin: Whitecaps FC set to host Montreal Impact in 2016 season opener

VANCOUVER, BC – The wait is almost over.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC open the 2016 MLS regular season on Sunday afternoon, when they host longtime Canadian rivals Montreal Impact at BC Place. TICKETS: http://ow.ly/Z30Mp.

KICKOFF: 2:30 p.m. PT  |  TV: TSN 1/3  |  RADIO: TSN 1040 (pre-game at 12:30 and post-game)

Fans are encouraged to arrive early to support the team during warmup and due to increased safety procedures. Doors open at 1:30 p.m. PT. 

Here’s everything you need to know about the match.

PRE-MATCH
INTERVIEWS:
 

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC

The ‘Caps are coming off a record-breaking 2015 campaign in which they set a new MLS club record for points, won their first Voyageurs Cup, and hosted their first MLS home playoff match.

Now, they have bigger goals in mind.

“We’ve got an exciting squad in there,” said head coach Carl Robinson. “Twenty managers will get interviewed this week and they’ll all say they have aspirations. I’m no different. We're assembling a good squad to make the city and club proud. Then what we accomplish will be down to us.”

Robinson added a few key pieces in the offseason, including Canadian right back Fraser Aird, Costa Rican midfielder Christian Bolaños, a two-time FIFA World Cup veteran, Japanese striker Masato Kudo and Panamanian striker Blas Perez – the former villain.

It will be interesting to see which of these players get the nod on Sunday and what formation Robinson will trot out after experimenting with a 4-4-2, 4-3-3, and 4-2-3-1 over the last few weeks.

The ‘Caps posted a 5W-1L-0D record in the preseason.

MONTREAL IMPACT

No, Didier Drogba won’t be playing.  

The Impact confirmed this week that the star striker will sit out four early-season matches due to a nagging knee injury. That’s a big blow for Montreal, but the ‘Caps certainly won’t be taking them lightly.

Last year, Montreal finished third in the Eastern Conference with 51 points – two fewer than Vancouver. Drogba played a massive part in that, but he had some help.

Montreal’s roster features reigning MLS Defender of the Year Laurent Ciman, in addition to Argentine attacking midfielder Ignacio Piatti and newcomers Harrison Shipp and Lucas Ontivero, who is on loan from Turkish club Galatasaray.

KEY MATCHUPS

Matias Laba vs. Ignacio Piatti: It’s an all-Argentine battle in the middle of the park. Vancouver’s star defensive midfielder vs. Montreal’s star attacking midfielder? Pass the popcorn. 

Octavio Rivero vs. Laurent Ciman: Rivero scored in Vancouver’s season opener a year ago and it would do wonders for his confidence if he could do so again on Sunday. It won’t be easy though, as the Uruguayan will likely see a lot of the reigning MLS Defender of the Year.

Don’t forget about: The wingers. Whether it’s the likes of Christian Bolaños, Kekuta Manneh, and Cristian Techera for Vancouver, or Montreal’s Lucas Ontivero, Harrison Shipp and Johan Venegas, there’s an abundance of attacking talent on both sides of the pitch and something tells me they’ll have something to say on Sunday.  

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT

Kendall Waston was the runner-up to Ciman for MLS Defender of the Year in 2015. 

Here's a comparison of some of their MLS regular season statistics. 

HEAD-TO-HEAD

There’s a long, and controversial, history between these two clubs.

This will be the 64th meeting between the Canadian rivals dating back to 1993. Interestingly, the most controversial moment between the two clubs came in a match between Montreal and Toronto FC in the 2009 Canadian Championship. The gist of it is that Montreal fielded a side of reserves and lost 6-1 to Toronto, which denied Whitecaps FC their first-ever Voyageurs Cup.

If you see a sign reading “Je me souviens” on Sunday, that’s what it’s referring to.

In MLS regular season action, Whitecaps FC have the edge over Montreal with a 2W-1L-1D record, including a 2-0 win in the 2012 season opener. Last year, Whitecaps FC fell 2-1 to the Impact in their lone MLS meeting but defeated them 4-2 on aggregate to win their first-ever Voyageurs Cup.

Be a part of the best sporting atmosphere in Vancouver! 2016 Whitecaps FC Season Tickets are on sale from $39/month all in. In addition to Season Tickets, Whitecaps FC offer a flexible range of ticket products, including Half-Season Packs, 5-Packs, a Youth Soccer Half-Season Ticket, and single match tickets. For more information, visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.