Whitecaps eye fresh start at new downtown home

VANCOUVER, B.C. – A new stadium and a fresh start.

That’s what the Vancouver Whitecaps are hoping the new BC Place Stadium in downtown Vancouver provides, starting this Sunday against the Portland Timbers. (4:30 pm ET; TSN2, watch LIVE online)

For Designated Player Mustapha Jarju, there would be no better time or place to get off the mark for the ‘Caps than at the new $500-million-plus home.

“That’s my dream,” Jarju told MLSsoccer.com after the club’s first training session at BC Place on Friday morning. “Last week I had a couple of good chances but couldn’t finish it, but I hope on Sunday against Portland – this is a very important game for us and the supporters, for everyone – I hope I can get my first goal.”

The struggles in the attacking third were a talking point following the club’s 3-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders last weekend. Going into this Sunday’s match, that’s still on the agenda — as is a focus on team defense.

“We’ve talked a lot about finishing our chances,” interim head coach Tom Soehn said, "but also defending better as a unit and making it harder to play through us at crucial parts of the game.

“What [Portland] have done well is work as a group. Nagbe’s had a run of late, Cooper’s been scoring – obviously their offensive threats are the same [as last time the teams met] and they’re good on set pieces, so we need to make sure we nullify those opportunities.”

The ‘Caps hope to take advantage of the wider field at BC Place, too. The playing surface will be five yards wider than Portland's JELD-WEN Field, meaning the visitors' size and physicality shouldn’t be as effective.

“It gives us more space,” Soehn said. “We have guys who like to knock it around, and if you can open it up a bit more and find more space, it gives us the ability to play through them a bit easier.

“When you play on a small field, you adjust to playing like that, and I think with their roster it suits them. They’re a hard-nosed, blue collar team that likes to get challenges in. When you spread the field a little bit, it takes away a lot of their opportunities to [be physical], so hopefully we can stretch them and expose the gaps.”

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Notes

Soehn wouldn’t confirm whether deadline-day signing Carlyle Mitchell would be in the squad after practicing with the team this week.

"What I can say is that he’s made a good impression to start, but we want to ease him into it," said Soehn.

Twenty-year-old Ridge Mobulu, who played nine matches for the Whitecaps in the second division last season, is training with the team. Soehn is describing this as a “second chance” for Mobulu, who left the club for personal reasons in the offseason.

Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com