Fixtures And Flittings

It was a fixtures frenzy on Thursday. After weeks of waiting in eager anticipation, the 2011 season was finally there before our very eyes.

With everyone else having things to say about it, we thought it was best to take a couple of days to reflect, check work vacation possibilities and look at extortionate airline deals for far flung places.

In hindsight, not sure the schedule turned out to be the exciting reveal I’d built it up to be for myself! It has thrown up some excitement, frustration and there’s some pretty weird anomalies in there.

There are 24 games on a Saturday, 3 on a Sunday and 7 on a Wednesday. A couple of Friday night games would have been cracking. Shame. The longest break between home matches is four weeks from when Houston visit on August 27th and Seattle come on September 24th. We have only one home game in June and September, yet four in April.

The month of June is bizarre. Apart from just that one home game, we have FIVE away games. Wtf? That means three of them in a row. I thought we’d left all the scheduling nightmares behind when we left the USL/NASL guys.

Toronto away midweek in June is also a pisser. Why not wait two days and have a spectacular game for Canada day?

A personal nightmare for the wife, is that for the third year on the trot I’ll be missing her birthday to go to a Caps game!

Kick off times for the matches have met with a mixed reaction.

When I was in the UK, I was an old traditionalist. Football should be played at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon and not whenever the TV companies dictated. You’d think I’d be happy then with the plethora of 4pm and 4.30pm kick off times for the Caps then. Not so.

Taking aside the fact that I work the odd Saturday now until 4pm, I’ve found that the afternoon games sap the atmosphere out of the Southside. Whether it’s the lack of alcohol that’s been flowing or just the draining heat of the sun in the summer games, I don’t know, but a lot of the early kick offs in recent seasons have been a bit flat. There’s something up and we need to find out what it is and fix it sharpish.

We can only speculate that this is primarily to suit national television coverage so that people on the east coast won’t have to stay up past their bed time to watch the Caps. let’s be frank here. How many east coasters are going to give up their sunny, summer early evenings to watch us? Who there will really give a toss?

Last year a Whitecaps ticketing person told me that the reason the Caps were having 4pm kickoffs, especially in the spring and autumn months, is because the Vancouver public don’t like being outside in the cold and won’t come out. Wow. It’s also to aid families of course, but fuck that. We don’t want a family friendly “Go Caps Go” crowd. Get the drunken young guys from the Lions games in. That’ll soon noise the place up!

The early kick off times are great of course for people travelling over from the Island and from the interior. Also for those poor Caps fans that find themselves living south of the border. With Victoria and Okanagan supporters groups already established, this will give many others the ideal boost to get their own ones going and that can only be a good thing for everyone connected with the Caps.

Does there have to be so many of the early ones though? Can there not be a mix? We have no weekend games kicking off past 4.30. Such a shame and such a wasted opportunity to create cracking night-time atmospheres.

Portland Timbers are showing the Whitecaps how things should be done, as is the case in pretty much everything at the moment, with a mix of Saturday evening 7.30pm kick offs and some afternoon Sunday ones thrown into the mix to make a token gesture to the family crowd. I wonder who we’ll see with the better atmospheres.

Biggest headache travel wise is likely to be on August 27th, when Houston visit Empire. If the Caps were to change any Saturday game to later in the day, it should be this one.

The PNE will be in full swing, so you have that, us and also Playland. When the BC Lions played in similar circumstances last season, the place was in gridlock. I’m also not sure that the families attending the PNE are going to be welcoming of tirades of abuse and general noise filling the air of their quiet Saturday afternoon out with the kids.

Despite those gripes, there’s loads to look forward to though.

We’re starting our MLS life with a home game and we’re finishing our first regular season with one as well. I always like to end with a home game. Hopefully it won’t be our last game of the season, as we’ll be in the playoffs, but there’s nothing worse than the season finishing and you not being there to witness it first hand. It’s already depressing enough, but this just adds to it.

The other big advantage is that if we need to get something from the Colorado game to make the playoffs, the roar of the BC Place crowd should give us a lift that could take us over the line. Three of the last four games are scheduled for the newly completed stadium which will with either give us a boost or feel like away surroundings to the players used to being at Empire.

The change of stadium during the season is going to give us three cracking occasions. The Empire opener against Toronto on March 19th will be full of Canadian pride. Top marks also go to the MLS schedulers for giving us our last game at Empire against Seattle. Not sure about our first game at BC Place being against Portland though.

I do have mixed feelings about it. Games against the Timbers are already huge occasions. There is the danger that we could find ourselves outsung at our showcase. It’s up to us of course not to let that happen but the first match at the new stadium would be a big deal no matter whether it was against our Cascadian rivals of someone like Kansas City (I seriously can’t refer to them as ‘Sporting’) who wouldn’t be bringing any fans.

The Timbers could spoil the occasion both on and off the pitch. Their players will definitely be up for putting one over on us. With our last two matches in the Cascadia Cup being at home, this will hopefully help us to the silverware though.

It’s great to see not just the Caps but also MLS promote the Cascadia Cup. The six games got a good feature on the top games of the year on the MLS site. Pride of place in fact and no mention of the Heritage Cup anywhere to be seen. Thank fuck! Hopefully that’s now dead and buried.

The Caps also had a great piece on the Cup on their official website, although going on about the Cascadia Cup “being back” on Facebook and Twitter was strange as it’s never gone away! It is back to it’s full legitimacy now though. No more griping by the ECS about it not counting because they weren’t allowed to play with the big boys.

AFTN have been lobbying for the Caps to market the hell our of the Cascadia Cup. To put it on the tickets, the gameday build-ups, media spots, everything. Let everyone know that we don’t care about TFC and the Canadian battle, just the Republic of Cascadian one. Good start. Keep it up.

For those looking forward to dishing out some top abuse to those that deserve it, Thierry Henry comes a calling with his New York Red Bulls on May 28th. Two months later and Goldenballsup brings the Galaxy to Empire, although looking at his playing record in recent years, let’s not hold our breath for that one.

For those of us looking at taking in some away matches, there’s some crackers in there (although some of the dates rule out the extended weekend breaks I’d been personally hoping for – may have to do some job hunting!).

Seattle away in June (11th) is a great time of year as far as I’m concerned and Portland away on August 20th will be toasty and offer up a great wee break down the Oregon coast for those that want a longer stay.

New York on the day before the 10th anniversary of 9/11 will appeal to many. Not me , as the city’s going to be a gongshow that weekend. A fantastic road trip beckons though with Chivas in LA on June 1st, followed by Real Salt Lake away three days later. Might be up for that. Great chance to air my “one wife’s more than enough” chant.

San Jose midweek is a pisser, as I fancied a nice weekend break in San Francisco and was ideally hoping for later in the season and catching my 49ers too.

Now we know what we have in store though for our first MLS season. I for one can’t wait for it all to begin. We just have to see what we have on the pitch now to see just how enjoyable our debut season is going to be.

Mon the Caps.

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