VANCOUVER, B.C. – Twenty-seven years of buildup finally had its payoff Saturday afternoon as Vancouver enjoyed a spectacle it so richly deserved at Empire Field in Whitecaps FC's MLS debut, a 4-2 win over Canadian rivals Toronto FC.
The pent-up enthusiasm for high-level soccer in Vancouver was obvious as fans chanted, cheered and stomped their feet all game long in an atmosphere that surprised even the most optimistic participant.
“It was absolutely electric,” said head coach Teitur Thordarson after the match. “I couldn’t have imagined that it would be like this. The supporters were just like the team, it looked like they’d been training for a long time. It was fantastic.”
WATCH: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
The home players felt the buzz right from the get-go, fuelling themselves off of the energetic crowd.
“Coming out for warm-up and seeing all the white scarves and all the white jerseys, it’s hard to describe the feeling,” said rookie Michael Boxall. “It was pretty amazing.”
Last year, the second-division Whitecaps played in front of capacity crowds of 5,000 at their former home at Swangard Stadium. Attendance for Saturday's match was almost five times that.
“This was the most intense set of emotions I’ve ever felt,” said midfielder Wes Knight, entering his third season in Vancouver. “I knew it was going to be magnetic, but not like this. To get a win was great, not just for our confidence, but to help the city continue to get behind us.
Fans got a little over-zealous after Eric Hassli scored the first goal, throwing the packaged white ponchos they’d been given by the team onto the pitch in excitement. The players, though, didn’t mind the fans' hasty celebration.
“The ponchos were great,” said midfielder and Vancouver native Terry Dunfield. “It gave us a breather.”
Despite the disappointment of defeat, even the opposition could appreciate the atmosphere created by the home crowd.
“It was a great atmosphere,” said Toronto defender Dan Gargan. “They showed up, they were loud and I don’t think you can ask much more from a home crowd.”
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