Vancouver Whitecaps FC forward Eric Hassli #29 and Toronto FC defender Richard Eckersley #27 in action during an MLS game between the Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the Toronto FC at BMO Field in Toronto on June 29, 2011.Toronto FC won 1-0. Photo: ISIPhotos
Soccer News: Vancouver Whitecaps first season in the MLS proves to be an uphill struggle
Back in March the Vancouver Whitecaps made their debut in the MLS making a major league impact, cruising over their fellow countrymen Toronto FC 4-2. But fans had to suffer 91 days of ties, defeats, missed opportunities and even a change in management before they would see another win.
Two wins, two managers and too much for fans to forget…
The anticlimax after the opening day of the season left those wearing blue and white with plenty moan about. In short; fans favourite Teitur Thordarson was sacked as manager, Whitecaps have dropped 12 points from winning positions more than any other team in MLS this season, denied a CONCAFF champions league cup run after being beaten by Toronto in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship (NCC) final, rock bottom of the MLS standings, on a 5 game losing streak in all competitions, cover for the injured first team regulars are not good enough, and finally many might argue the Canadian side has plan eh but no plan B…
Being the Whitecaps inaugural season the squad including management is taking time to gel. Teitur Thordarson joined Whitecaps FC as manager in 2007 and was sacked 12 games into the MLS season. The club stated that the bad run of results cost the Icelandic his job and the Whitecaps wanted to aim higher.
Tommy Soehn took over from Thordarson moving from his role of Whitecaps Director of Soccer Operations to interim manager. It took Tommy Soehn four games to equal Thordarson win rate in the MLS, although the previous coach had a NCC victory of Montreal tallying his total wins at 2.
But aside from the troubles mounting up against the Whitecaps you would never be able to tell from the 19 – 20,000 strong crowds which come out to support the team at Empire Field come rain or shine.
In the mist of the 14 game winless run, there were glimmers of hope for the MLS’s latest expansion team.
In order for the Whitecaps to be back on winners row it’s clear to fans the first names on the team sheet have to be: USA centre-back and Whitecaps Captain Jay DeMerit, Canadian born and Switzerland defender Alain Rochat, utility man Davide Chiumiento, tricky striker Camilo Sanvezzo and the man who is already the contender of goal of the season Eric Hassli.
Davide Chiumiento continues to be the play-maker for Vancouver with the third highest number of assists in the MLS this season. The wide man who likes to cut inside has pace, quick feet, ability to cross the ball and can also find the back of the net.
22 year old Brazilian striker Camilo Sanvezzo who has 6 goals to his name in all competitions so far, his pace, agility and skill can be a handful for a defence to deal with.
Frenchman Eric Hassli signed in March of this year as the team's first designated player and has already made Whitecaps FC history. Hassli kicked off his Whitecaps career with two debut goals against Toronto, one of which was the Whitecaps first ever goal in the MLS. The 30 year olds second milestone is being the sixth player in MLS history to earn three red cards in a single season.
With experience scoring goals in England, Switzerland and his native France Haslli has no trouble finding the onion bag. Although due to injury and suspension Hassli has only started half of the Whitecaps fixtures so far. The former FC Zürich forward has netted what many have already tipped as the MLS goal of the season. The brie-lliant volley on the edge of the 18 yard box against local rivals The Seattle Sounders earned Eric his 6th goal of the campaign and adulation from the world of soccer racking up over 1million YouTube hits.
Fans will hope he can stay injury free and keep is his cool on the pitch.
Coming through the ranks is 17 year Omar Salagdo who is looking to be a promising prospect, the first pick draft player has made 5 first team starts and a number of cameo appearances in the 2011 campaign. With the presence of a natural target man and a goal to his name fans will be hoping the boy from El Paso will go from strength to strength.
The remainder of the squad may have hidden talents but at this present moment in time one might argue they are not at the same calibre to be instant replacement when the core of the team is injured or suspended. With a numbers of players being unavailable and team trying to find a winning formula the club have used 28 players this season, more than any other team in MLS.
Amongst the doom and gloom the seasons not over, Whitecaps FC still have 13 games to play in the league with 39 points up for grabs. Points may not bring Vancouver prizes but the city has a number of soccer related fixtures to look forward to on and off the pitch.
An extra date has been added to the Whitecaps FC schedule when they host English Premiership team and FA Cup winners Manchester City as a part of their North America pre-season tour. The exhibition game will be played on July 18 at Empire Field. It will be a great occasion for Vancouver to host a team with such a footballing history and new found wealth. Van City v Man City will provide a good money spinner for the Whitecaps and will give fans new and old to see some of the world highest paid players in 15 minutes stints, as is the nature with pre-season friendlies.
In addition to the global stars on display that night, the Whitecaps will replace their much criticized artificial turf for one which is a grass surface. Visiting coaches to Empire Field including Toronto FC’s Aron Winter and Philadelphia Union manger Piotr Nowak have complained about the pitch. However the Whitecaps have not managed to use the poor playing surface to their advantage. Only time will tell to whether the grass is greener on the other side…
In October Whitecaps FC will move into the newly renovated B.C Place in Downtown Vancouver. Fans and players will be looking forward to christening their new 55,000 capacity stadium, which includes a retractable roof against Portland Timbers on October 2nd. The upgrades of the Stadium built in the early eights is said to have cost the B.C tax payer over $500 million. Regardless of the cost or politics the Whitecaps will have an internationally recognized state of art stadium to call home for the last month of 2011 MLS season and hopefully for years to come.
The following week will be a busy one for the Whitecaps as they have 3 matches in 5 days. Next up for Vancouver is a home fixture with Real Salt on July 16th, then the exhibition game against the blue side of Manchester two days later. Straight after that the Whitecaps travel to the Buck Shaw Stadium to face San Jose.
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