After sifting through Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s inaugural 2011 schedule, a few dates immediately stand out for two simple words:
The most important matches for Whitecaps fans every season are against their Northwest rivals from Seattle and Portland. This season, they'll be far more intense.
“There’s going to be a lot of bad blood with the fans,” said Whitecaps goalkeeper Jay Nolly, a three-year veteran of the regional rivalry. “I know how much it means to the club and to the fans to win those games. They’re going to really will their team to win the Cascadia Cup. It definitely means a lot more playing in the top league now.”
On Saturday, Sept. 24, the ‘Caps will host the hated Seattle Sounders FC. The match will also be the last for the Whitecaps at Empire Field, the site of many a battle between the ‘Caps and the Sounders in the old NASL days.
The Sounders will help shut down Empire Field this season, but long ago they helped open a new venue in Vancouver. On June, 20, 1983, the Whitecaps christened a brand-new BC Place Stadium by beating the Sounders 2-1 in front of a sell-out crowd of 60,000.
Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi played in that match. The former defender stopped the Sounders from taking a 2-0 first-half lead by clearing the ball off the goal line, paving the way for the eventual victory by the home side.
[inline_node:323997]"I was fortunate to be a part of the first sporting event in this stadium and I recall it very vividly," said Lenarduzzi after the club first announced that they would be moving into BC Place Stadium once again. "The fact that it was state-of-the-art then and the fact that with all the renovations it will once again be state of the art in 2011, it's very exciting to be a part of it, indeed.”
In 2011, BC Place will undergo a rebirth after renovations mould the stadium into a world-class soccer arena. This time, though, the Whitecaps will play their first match at the new venue against their other Northwest rivals. On Sunday, Oct. 2, the ‘Caps will host the Portland Timbers at their newly remodeled home.
The team’s other Cascadia Cup matches will be played on the road, Saturday, June 11, against the Sounders at Qwest Field, and Saturday, Aug. 20, against the Timbers at PGE Park.
“Whether it’s at Empire, BC Place, Qwest or PGE Park, the stadiums are just going to be unbelievable,” emphasized Nolly in regard to the derby matches. “It’s so close with the traveling supporters, and the home bases are already going to get a ton of fans. I think all three places will show that the Pacific Northwest is one of the best places for soccer in North America.”
The ‘Caps will begin their MLS era on March 19 when they host their Canadian rivals Toronto FC at Empire Field.
The club also announced on Thursday that every Whitecaps FC match in 2011 will be broadcast on TEAM 1410 radio.