Archive for the ‘Whitecaps’ Category

Former England and Vancouver Royals manager Sir Bobby Robson dies

It’s understandable that the news of the death of Sir Bobby Robson, a legand of a footballer (soccer player) in England and a manager that ran some of the world’s top football clubs in Barcelona, PSV Eindhoven and Newcastle United as well as the English national team, would not make much of a splash in Vancouver.  Sure we love our Whitecaps and most people could probably pick David Beckham out of a police lineup, but aside from that it’s not our sport.

What I didn’t realize until today was that Robson, who passed away today after a long public bout with cancer [lg], had been a player-manager for the first year the Vancouver Royals [wp] played in the North American Soccer League (NASL) in 1968.  From managing the team that preceded the Whitecaps, he went onto run Fulham in the English First Division and later England and Barcelona.

While neither the Royals nor the Whitecaps ever really had the star power of fellow NASL team the New York Cosmos [wp], football in North America and Vancouver were drawing big name talent well before Beckham arrived in LA.

As with most things football, the Guardian has the best coverage on their football site [lg].

Whitecaps down the Timbers

Late game push by the Timbers

Late game push by the Timbers

The Vancouver Whitecaps recorded their win of the still young 2009 United Soccer Leagues (USL) season last night with a one – nil win over the Portland Timbers.  The only goal of the game coming from a 63rd minute strike early in the second half from Whitecaps captain Martin Nash.

With the Whitecaps looking forward to the 2011 promotion to Major League Soccer (MLS) [mbv], they’re looking to build up the momentum of a few strong seasons in a row to help carry them up to the top North American league.  The chance of playing in the MLS if they can prove themselves now, is an extra motivating factor for the Whitecaps players.

Wes Knight is surrounded by Timbers players.

Wes Knight is surrounded by Timbers players.

Early on however it seemed more likely that the Timbers would be doing the scoring.  With one of the largest, and most vocal, traveling supporters groups I’ve ever seen at Swangard Stadium they had the best of the early going and after the first 45 resumed controlling the game.  Pinned back into their own zone the Whitecaps rode their luck a little until Nash’s goal eased the pressure off of them.

The Timbers kept pressing, with goalkeeper Steve Cronin joining the attack in the dying minutes as they searched for an equalizer.  However the Whitecaps defense managed to hold on for the victory.

Having missed the first game due to attending a wedding in Victoria, I was glad to be there for the Whitecaps first win.  With the team set to change both league and venue in 2011, it would be easy to start getting nostalgic for Swangard.  However it would be nice to see more turnout for the games.  With the Whitecaps setting a new MLS record for season ticket deposits for their major league debut season having sold 5,000 in 48 hours, seeing Swangard packed would ease any lingering concerns I have over the forthcoming change.

Having said that it was a great night, and a great game.

MLS, seasons tickets and an underwear model

Martin Nash gets ready to kick

If you missed it yesterday Major League Soccer is coming to Vancouver in 2011 [mbv], and you can reserve your right to be the first in line for seasons tickets starting tomorrow at the official site of Vancouver’s embryo of an MLS team [vm11].  Meanwhile the Seattle Sounders, who last year played in the United Soccer Leagues (USL) first division with the Whitecaps, played their first game in the MLS having made the jump to the big leagues this year.

They beat the New York Red Bulls, though I haven’t been able to figure out whether or not former Arsenal winger and Calvin Klein underwear model Freddie Ljungberg played for them [av].  He’s been nursing an injury, and basically has spent the last few years of his career in various states of injury.  Arsenal fans will remember him fondly, especially for this great goal in the FA Cup against Chelsea [yt].  Here’s another video of it and this one includes Ray Parlour’s goal [yt] and some nice shots of Tony Adams being Tony Adams and thus awesome.

Hmm… sorry wrong blog for that sort of thing.

The MLS is coming to Vancouver

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Toronto FC

After years of rumours [mbv] it seems like Vancouver is going to get an Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise.  Granted it’s at a slightly low point for the MLS, after the David Beckham experiment which was meant to prove that soccer in America was on its way to becoming as much of a force as it is in Europe has failed.  Beckham’s decided he prefers playing in the semi-retirement league that is Series A in Italy and is paying out of his own pocket to stay there.

 Meanwhile what this means for the Whitecaps we’re not sure.  The ownership group of the new team is largely the same as that of the Whitecaps with owner Greg Kerfoot heading the group that paid the $35 million dollar fee for an MLS franchise, but it seems like it’s not a sure thing that the new team will be called the Whitecaps and there’s clearly not enough soccer support to keep the two teams going in Vancouver. 

The new team will play in BC Place as opposed to Swangard, because if you can’t sell out Swangard you’re might as well go big and not sell out  BC Place.

The example of Toronto FC [mbv] shows that a Canadian city can support professional soccer, but the population and demographics are a lot different in Toronto than they are Vancouver.  The success of the new MLS team is hardly a sure thing, on or off the pitch.

Of course now this also means that there’s no way that we’ll ever get any sort of media accreditation for the Whitecaps.  While the team is great at calling me back to renew my season tickets, they’ve never once returned an email or a call about press accreditation for covering the Whitecaps games.  Any of the photos for the posts on the team I’ve taken have been with a camera that I’ve learned how to smuggle into games.

As a former (damn economy) season ticket owner I hope the new team succeeds.  I do think Vancouver hast the potential to support another major league sports franchise in town, and this will certainly be less of a fiasco than the Grizzlies were, and I am very eager for some higher level soccer to be played in town.  Even if there will be no David Beckham.  Even if I have to assemble my camera in a washroom stall so that I can cover the games.

More talk of the MLS in Vancouver

Martin Nash gets ready to kick

With props to the CBC [cbc]:

Following the successful completion of the MLS All-Star Game in Toronto this past week, talk of expansion for North America’s highest level of professional soccer league has started a fresh.  As usual the talk tends to centre on the chance of Vancouver getting a team as part of a two franchise expansion along with Montreal.

One interested potential owner is George Gillett Jr., an American businessman who owns the Montreal Canadiens and half of Liverpool Football Club in the English Premier League.  Another name to enter the picture is basketball star Steve Nash whose from Victoria and launched his branded line of fitness centres in Vancouver and whose brother Martin currently plays for the Whitecaps.

Much of the future of a potential franchise will be determined by the fate of Seattle’s new club, which will start play next season, and the future of the proposed waterfront stadium.

Whitecaps draw with Toronto FC at Swangard in soccerball game

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Toronto FC

Pictured: Toronto FC goalkeeper Greg Sutton shouts at his defenders during a scramble in the box.

Despite being a long time season ticket holder for the Whitecaps I tend not to blog about the team on a point of principal, since the organization has failed to answer several requests for media passes.  This post is an exception to the rule.

Every year the Whitecaps try to organize a friendly match for fans that brings a top level team into Vancouver.  Last year saw the Major League Soccer (MLS) team LA Galaxy and David Beckham play the Caps at GM Place and yesterday they brought in the Toronto FC Canada’s only MLS team.  Without the star power of Beckham the match stayed at the Whitecaps’ usual home field Swangard Stadium in Burnaby.

The Toronto FC is one of the success stories of the MLS.  Where many teams fail to fill stadiums, even with Beckham now playing in the league, Toronto FC’s stadium have been jammed packed with fanatical fans since the first game.  Without major stars, the only starter that I recognized yesterday was former Newcastle United player Laurent Robert, they’ve built a devoted fan base and despite a lack of on-field success have been a model for MLS teams in America and a beacon of hope for a potential Vancouver franchise.  For more on the stellar success of the Toronto FC check out both my post on the club [mbv] and the excellent article in the London Guardian by Globe and Mail journalist John Doyle [lg].

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Will English football come to Vancouver?

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Following on the heels of other major sports leagues expanding their fanbase and their brand around the world, the top league in English football (soccer) the Premier League has announced that as of 2011 that all of its teams will play one competitive match a season overseas. The idea has met with opposition across England who see the proposal upsetting the delicate balance that is football tradition [av]. With football’s world governing body FIFA against the idea, it is still not clear whether or not the oversea’s game will happen.

If it does go through though Vancouver could be poised to be one of the cities to hold a match, especially if the new waterfront stadium that the Whitecaps have been wanting is finally built [vwc]. Assuming we don’t totally make a mess of the Olympics we will also have a very good deal of experiance running world class sporting events. Asia might be where the Premier League is looking, but we’re still going to be an attractive city.

What would Vancouver gain? Well the Whitecaps would have a way to show off what a wonderful experiance watching a soccer game in their new stadium can be, and in turn ideally pick up a few new season ticket holders. Also though clearly not as much of an impact as the Olympics, there would be a tourist upswing for the match with both teams bringing in support not only from England but from across North America.

Currently it’s a pipe dream. Opposition to the plan is strong enough both in England and in football’s governing bodies that it probably won’t happen. Yet exhibition matches between top European teams have been played in Seattle, with Celtic and Manchester United playing there a few years ago, and with the success of the Whitecaps / LA Galaxy friendly at GM Place more top level football could be being played in Vancouver very soon.

Whitecaps Season Tickets still on sale

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I’ve bought ice packs for the Canucks. I used to get free tickets to the Vancouver Canadians while in elementary school. I’ve seen what this city has to offer for sports and I have to say that for value for your money the best thing going is the Vancouver Whitecaps, and thankfully they’ve still got seasons tickets for sale [vwc]. Though the early bird sale is over, the tickets are still an incredible bargain, starting at just $175 for 15 home games.

The team is good, having won the Division Championship in 2006 and the level of soccer (football) is fairly high. Plus the ticket pack comes with a ticket for the annual international game which in past years have included high level English football clubs and last year David Beckham and the LA Galaxy. The games have a great atmosphere, and are incredibly fun. It’s well worth the going.

Now if I could only convince them to give me photo accreditation so I didn’t have to hide my camera down my pants when I went to games.

How’s the airport David Beckham?

Marketing legend David Beckham is in town to kick the soccerballs tomorrow. If you want more information avoid the CBC’s site which apparently is being run by the children in a sort of Bring Your Child To Work Day thing. Their video descirbed as “David Beckham talks about LA Galaxy vs. Whitecaps game in Vancouver” is in fact a video of David Beckham signing a kid’s autograph (now on eBay) and then entering a team bus while some yahoo shouts “How do you like Vancouver David?”

You know because he’s been in YVR for half an hour I’m sure his opinion of Vancouver is really well formed. Good journalism there dinkwallet. It reminds me of my failed attempt as a journalist where I’d yell questions at Ujjal Singh Dosanjh along the lines of “How do you like my mother’s cooking?” and “What time did I wake up this morning?” Needless to say I was forced into new media.

In an actual interview with the press he talked up the importance of winning the game against the White Caps and noted [cbc]:

I’ve been lucky enough in my career to play in World Cups and some of the biggest games in world football, and exhibition games are part of that. Even at Real Madrid and Manchester United you play in exhibitions games.

Meanwhile the Galaxy are now managerless although if England miss out on World Cup Qualification they might have someone familiar to Beckham on the touchline in England manager Steve McClaren [lg].

Though I’m a fan of the Whitecaps, and a seasons’ ticket holder, let’s put this game into perspective. The Whitecaps are good for their level, but the Galaxy are not looking for a tough match here, they’re looking to expand their brand and market Beckham. Their last game was against not an MLS rival team, or one of Europe’s top clubs but Hollywood FC [wp] a team with actor Anthony LaPaglia (Without A Trace) in goal and other Hollywood as well as retired footballers like Vinnie Jones, Danny Cannon (director of I Still Know What You Did Last Summer) and British rockers like Ian Astbury. Oh and Jimmy Jean-Louis who we all know as The Hatian from Heroes.

So yes, David Beckham wants to win tomorrow because to not win would be incredibly embarrasing for a team that on paper anyway should be light years beyond the Whitecaps. Still upsets happen, and the Whitecaps’ players could eat out on the story of how they upset Beckham and the Galaxy for years if they win.

Five things you should know about football

With David Beckham and the LA Galaxy coming into town to play a friendly game against the Vancouver Whitecaps it’s time to learn a little bit about football. So in the run up to Tuesday’s game, tickets still on sale [wc], I’m going to take this oppertunity to write about the sport I love. Today then, five things you should know about soccer.

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Real Madrid at the Bernabéu

1) It’s called football

Our football, the one with the forward hand passing and the dog fights, is known as American football in the rest of the world. Soccer is football in the rest of the world. Which makes sense since a) football was football before American football was football and b) American football has more in common with rugby than football. Typically as Canadians we side with the rest of the world on things like invading Iraq, spelling colour and having a Parliment but for this we do what the Americans do. For the rest of this post, and in the future, we’ll be calling it football.

2) Forget the World Series, football is the true global game

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Barcelona’s Camp Nou

In Canada we get excited when our collection of NHL professionals beat the collection of NHL professionals assembled by the eight or so other nations that give a shit about hockey. I love hockey, but it’s really a northern European sport. Russia, the Finnswegians, America and Canada are about the only people who care about it. Football is still largely dominated by the top European clubs, but it’s played on all corners of the earth. The Europeans might sign the paychecks but increasingly players are coming from Africa [yt], Asia [yt] [yt] and other areas that hockey, baseball, basketball and American football have not touched.

It’s not a new thing either. The most famous pre-Beckham footballer is Brazil’s Pele [yt], though Maradona comes pretty close [yt].

Is there more after the jump? You bet there is, and you really want to see number 4.
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