VANCOUVER, B.C. — Manchester City assistant manager Brian Kidd is relishing the chance to return to Vancouver, this time on the other side of the white line.
The former Manchester United forward finished his playing career in the North American Soccer League for the Fort Lauderdale/Minnesota Strikers from 1982-84, and during that period, faced the Vancouver Whitecaps at the now demolished Empire Stadium.
On Monday, he’ll work with head coach Roberto Mancini to prepare FA Cup champions Manchester City for their Premier League season by taking on the MLS edition of the Vancouver Whitecaps at Empire Field on Monday (10 pm ET; ESPN2, ESPN Deportes) in their second match of the Herbalife World Football Challenge.
“They’ve got everything set up in Canada and America — the standard [of play] is very, very good,” Kidd told Vancouver media Thursday afternoon via conference call. “People don’t realize it, [Major League Soccer doesn’t] get enough credit for it.”
The Manchester native gave the impression the match isn’t going to be a standard friendly with a squad full of players battling for starting positions when the Premier League season begins in August.
“We know it’s going to be a tough game [vs. Vancouver],” Kidd said. “It’s going to be a competitive game. We’ll be looking to have an edge to our game. And from the players’ point of view, they’re fighting for their place now — they can’t afford to sit back and relax.”
The squad Manchester City are bringing to Vancouver includes 2010 World Cup winner David Silva and English internationals Joe Hart, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Gareth Barry, James Milner, Adam Johnson, Joleon Lescott and Micah Richards, among other stars of world football.
“[Mancini] will look for a mix-and-match with the starters,” Kidd said. “The well-known players will be playing.”
North America is becoming an increasingly popular destination for top European clubs to prepare for their domestic and European campaigns, and Kidd said that shouldn’t surprise anyone.
“I’ve told all the players and all the staff what a wonderful place Vancouver is. It’s a beautiful place,” Kidd said. “You get good competition; there’s no easy games now when you’re finding your feet.”
Indeed, during the NASL era in the 1980s, the Whitecaps defeated Manchester City twice. The club defeated the Citizens 5-0 in 1980 in Vancouver before following that up with a 2-0 win a year later.
“With Canada and America, the game is getting more popular now than it was years ago,” Kidd said. “Clubs are looking to be invited out here. For me, it’s wonderful. I had a great experience out there and I can’t speak highly enough of the Canadians and Americans when I was out there.”
“Vancouver, what a beautiful place,” Kidd concluded. “Our players will be well looked after up there, and they’ll talk about this for years to come, like I’ve done going back 20 years plus now.”