Whitecaps FC ready for fantastic experience

Vancouver Whitecaps FC celebrated the 35th anniversary of its inaugural match today training in Toronto, doing so in preparation of the second Nutrilite Canadian Championship which kicks off Wednesday at BMO Field. The club arrived two days earlier on the heels of a promising 3:2 victory over the Minnesota Thunder in league play on Saturday night. Newcomer Marlon James scored the hat trick in his Whitecaps’ debut. Wednesday’s match, however, is entirely different as Whitecaps FC and Toronto FC kick off the 2009 Nutrilite Canadian Championship, a three-team Canadian circuit featuring two United Soccer Leagues Division One teams (Whitecaps FC and reigning champion Impact de Montréal) and one Major League Soccer team (Toronto FC). The 2009 winner qualifies for the 2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League season.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC celebrated the 35th anniversary of its inaugural match today training in Toronto, doing so in preparation of the second Nutrilite Canadian Championship which kicks off Wednesday at BMO Field. The club arrived two days earlier on the heels of a promising 3:2 victory over the Minnesota Thunder in league play on Saturday night. Newcomer Marlon James scored the hat trick in his Whitecaps’ debut.

Wednesday’s match, however, is entirely different as Whitecaps FC and Toronto FC kick off the 2009 Nutrilite Canadian Championship, a three-team Canadian circuit featuring two United Soccer Leagues Division One teams (Whitecaps FC and reigning champion Impact de Montréal) and one Major League Soccer team (Toronto FC). The 2009 winner qualifies for the 2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League season.

“We had a fantastic experience here last year in Toronto,” said Teitur Thordarsson at a news conference today.

Last year, Vancouver finished third with four points – one win, one draw and two losses. The team’s four points all came against Toronto FC, including a 1:0 victory over TFC at BMO Field on Canada Day. Martin Nash, now the team captain, scored the lone goal from the penalty mark.

“The tournament is a great thing for Canadian soccer,” said coach Thordarsson. “We have seen now what Montréal – and also Puerto Rico from our (USL-1) league – have gotten out of the CONCACAF Champions League by playing in more games all through the winter. That is of course a great thing to develop teams.”

For the record, Vancouver will be joining Toronto in MLS in two years: the city was granted an MLS expansion franchise for 2011. For now, however, the team remains focused on the 2009 season’s cup competition and league title. After finishing third in the 2008 Nutrilite Canadian Championship, the team went on to win the USL-1 playoff title.

“Our team this year looks a little different from last year,” said Thordarsson. “We still have a lot of experience, but some of that experience has changed down with young talented players.”

James, who picked up USL-1 Player of the Week honours today, is the latest addition to the Canadian squad. The 32-year old striker plays internationally for St. Vincent & the Grenadines – he scored his country’s lone goal against Canada in last year’s FIFA World Cup Qualifiers at Stade Saputo. He had a terrific pre-season (six goals in seven games) before scoring three times in his official Whitecaps FC debut.

Also new to the squad is former MLS defender Jeff Parke, former TFC defender Marco Reda, and 20-year old forward Marcus Haber who played for Canada at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007. Japanese defender Takashi Hirano is the club’s oldest player at 34 while Ethan Gage is the youngest at 17 (he turns 18 this Friday).

The Wednesday 6 May kickoff is 20.00 ET (17.00 PT) from BMO Field. The Toronto FC-Whitecaps FC match will be broadcast live on Sportsnet.

Schedule & Results

Check out Canada Soccer’s Schedule & Results page where you can find upcoming match schedules and past results leading to highlights, photos, match data, and more.