VANCOUVER, B.C. — Sometimes, frustration is unavoidable.
For Vancouver — coming off the mother of all frustrations when their 2-1 aggregate lead in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship final was washed away by torrential rains and lightning on Wednesday in Toronto — there’s no time to sulk. They must get ready to host the New York Red Bulls on Saturday (5:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online) at Empire Field.
The Whitecaps were hoping to use an NCC title to springboard them through the rest of their MLS campaign, and were nearly there. But with a half-hour left, the game was called and is scheduled to be replayed in its entirety in July.
That's a bitter pill to swallow for the struggling expansion side.
“It’s not easy to put that to the back of your mind,” midfielder Terry Dunfield said at training on Friday. “At night you're just shaking your head thinking, ‘Did this really happen?' But we’ve got to put that behind us now and what a good way to do it with a huge game against New York.”
The 60 minutes that Vancouver played midweek now count for nothing, but there are still positives to take away from the performance. For a team that has yet to even lead an MLS match on the road, the Whitecaps’ showing against Toronto was a big step forward.
Much credit for that must be given to the fact that Vancouver played the same starting lineup in consecutive games for the first time all season. Not only that, but prior to Wednesday, the same 11 players hadn’t started together in more than one game — consecutive or not.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said captain Jay DeMerit. “That shows the roller coaster that we’ve been on this season. But it’s been a great learning experience for the guys, and if we can use that now as an advantage to continue to grow as a team and keep guys on the field, that will be a huge step moving forward.”
Vancouver have been given somewhat of a break in that they face a weakened New York team. Thierry Henry stayed home to rest his knee, while fellow Designated Player Rafa Márquez is away with the Mexican national team as they prepare for the CONCACAF Gold Cup. The Red Bulls wills also be without speedy winger Dane Richards, who is also gone preparing for the Gold Cup with the Jamaican national team, as well as midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy, who is in the process of getting a green card and, as a result, can’t leave the States.
That’s not to say that the visitors won’t still be dangerous. A familiar face will lead their attack, with Canadian midfielder Dwayne De Rosario coming to Empire Field for the second time this season. The dynamic playmaker scored against the ‘Caps while still with TFC in the season opener and is a constant threat to create a goal.
“He can be dangerous if he gets time on the ball, and he really knows this league inside out,” said compatriot Dunfield. “We’ve got to be on our mettle to stop him.”
Following the match, De Rosario will join up with Dunfield to represent Canada at the Gold Cup. Also going to next month’s Gold Cup are New York center back Tim Ream and striker Juan Agudelo, who will both be playing for the United States.