Sunday will be a historical day for Vancouver FC, as it will inaugurate its new stadium for all of Langley and the Lower Mainland to see. The momentous occasion will mark the true beginning of the club, as it will cement its place as the Lower Mainland’s home team in the CPL. But fanfare and history will have to be put on pause as soon as the first whistle blows, because Calgary’s-own Cavalry FC are there with the intention of ruining the occasion.
History Beckons in Langley
Although Vancouver FC have already played three matches in the CPL this season, and have scored a handful of goals, this upcoming home-opener will spark that feeling of novelty and significance all over again for the fans, coaches, and players of Vancouver FC.
Langley, who has had a rich history of soccer in regional leagues dating back to the 1960’s, finally has a team that they can all get behind in the CPL. And while the name initially sparked controversy due to where the club decided to call its home, it feels like Vancouver FC, having played pre-season games across the region and having printed the communities’ names across their jersey, has done enough to show that it’s representing all of the Lower Mainland.
For Rob Friend, ex-Canadian Men’s National Team player and owner of Vancouver FC, it all started with connecting with the soccer community in Langley.
“Community is number one [for us],” Friend told media on Friday. “And so how we access that community is through grassroot clubs. There is a lot of big clubs in this region, from Langley United, to Coastal to Surrey FC. We identified those clubs and asked ourselves ‘how do we work with them?’, and ‘how do we be accessible [to them]?
“Grassroots and community, those are the pillars we are founded on”.
Sunday will then provide the chance for the community to show their support for this new-found club, and cheer the team on as they try to embody what all that rich soccer history has culminated to.
“Right Now, We Are Below My Expectations”
When the final squad was announced before the beginning of the CPL season, quite a few fans and onlookers were a little apprehensive about Vancouver’s chances due to the lack of experience in such a young squad. However, three games into the season, Vancouver has shown that it can compete right up there with the big boys as they have gotten four points out of a possible nine.
Considering all three matches were away games, the start of the season was a sort of baptism of fire for the club, but they seem to have gone beyond expectations with their performances so far.
That is, if you are anyone but Afshin Ghotbi.
To the vastly experienced Iranian coach, he believes his team could have achieved more so far.
“I have a lot of experience in my job, I’ve been doing this for 40 years, and to be honest, I think we are below my expectations,” Ghotbi told media Friday. “I feel like there was something we could have taken out of all three games, and if we were a little bit more focused in front of the ball, and had taken our chances, we could have gotten all three victories.”
That strive for perfection is sure to drive his team to greater heights, but you could be forgiven to think that he is being a little harsh on his team. These results have put Vancouver third in the table when many were expecting them to hang near the bottom at the start.
Nevertheless, Afshin has clear expectations for what how he wants his team to play, what he wants this team to achieve, and where he wants the levels of this team to be ahead of this match against Cavalry. The question is can his players reach these lofty heights?
They’ve Come To Spoil The Party
While there is bound to be many celebrations, activities and memories being built in the stadium before the match, there is one group of people there whose sole purpose is to spoil the festivities.
But for club captain and number one keeper Callum Irving, he is prepared for that.
“We know that they’re going to be a tough team to beat on Sunday, and we know that they’re going to try to fully ruin our day,” Irving noted. “That’s just professional soccer for you”.
Cavalry come in hungry to break their winless streak of three games, especially after they have surrendered the lead four times across the three games. The Calgary based team has looked dangerous in attack, especially with the likes of Ali Musse, Myer Bevan, Joe Mason, and Mikael Cantave.
Musse in particular has been lighting it up down that right side for Cavalry, highlighted by that special assist that he crafted for Myer Bevan against Valour last weekend. And the forward line in general has looked relentless in their forward press, causing problems for backlines and goalkeepers aplenty.
But Ghotbi isn’t too overly concerned about Cavalry, instead focusing on his own trust in his team.
“I have so much belief and trust in my team since day one that we can handle anything that teams can throw at us,” Ghotbi feels. “Our players have shown that they can handle the pressure and handle the different types of football teams.”
Ghotbi insists that his team are prepared for what Cavalry are going to throw them, especially as one of the league’s most aggressive and physical sides, but realizes the same can likely be said for his team’s opponents.
“There are no secrets in the game [anymore], everybody sees everybody play, everyone has the technology to code every moment and look at opponents in a diligent way. [But] we’ve done our homework… and we believe we can match the physicality of any team we face”.
Come Sunday evening, this game will live long in the memory of those who will take part in the match, be them fans, staff or players. It will officially demarcate the beginning of a new legacy in Langley, and for all of the Lower Mainland. The home fans will simply hope that history will remember them as the victor.