January is upon us, and so begins the season of Provoking Supporter Outrage. Over the next couple of months we will see social media storms about signings, a new kit design, draft picks, and things that are downright unpredictable.
This past week saw the first outrage of the new year erupt over the release of the 2018 MLS schedule. The ‘Caps will play every Eastern team once and every Western team twice, but the quirks of scheduling mean that each team in the west needs to play one other Western team three times. There was no way MLS was going to miss the chance to have three meetings of Portland and Seattle, and two of these will take place in Portland.
So where does this leave the Cascadia Cup, the supporter owned trophy awarded to the top team in the Cascadian mini-league since 2004?
The Whitecaps are the current all-time Kings of Cascadia, having won the cup six times. The current cup holders are Portland. The Cascadia Cup Council, made up of representatives from the Vancouver Southsiders, Seattle’s Emerald City Supporters, and Portland’s Timbers Army, are currently considering the schedule to see which of the matches will be excluded.
Many supporters are pleased with the reduction in fixtures as it makes each match truly special. Starting in 2012 the League scheduled three games between each team, rotating home field advantage season to season. Far from increasing the intensity of the rivalries, it felt like each fixture became a little diluted. Supporters groups, who often produce impressive and expensive tifo for the occasion, had a hard time properly celebrating the derby. To add insult to injury, last year several of the derby matches happened on week nights, lessening attendance and making massive travelling support near impossible. The return to two matches will be welcome by most.
Here is a run down of some of the top fixtures for 2018, from a supporter perspective.
The Cascadia home derbies will be held later in the season with Seattle visiting on September 15 and Portland coming, yet again, for the final match of the season on October 28. These are always occasions, and the Portland fixture especially has been an important one for league standing and Cascadia Cup points in recent seasons. There is almost always something to play for, the away supporters section is full and the Southside is often regaled in tifo.
While the home fixtures are a great atmosphere, it should be a bucket list item for every Whitecaps supporter to make an away trip in Cascadia at some point. This season, timing for the away fixtures is fantastic, with a Saturday afternoon match on July 21 in Seattle making for an easy day trip and the August 11 fixture in Portland making for a great summer weekend away. If you’ve never been, there is really nothing like standing with 500 or more of your fellow supporters, singing for hours against the mass choir of the Timbers Army opposite.
Fierce home clashes
Over the years it seems like certain teams just bring out the passion in the Southside. Beating LA Galaxy and Dallas is always fun and we’ll have a chance to do so on March 24 and September 23 respectively. Montreal visits for the home opener on March 4, and again in the Voyageurs Cup semi-final, the date of which is still to be determined. If we beat them, we’ll probably see Toronto for the first leg of the final.
The return of Jordan Harvey on April 13
Newly minted franchise LAFC will come to town on April 13, perhaps with Jordan Harvey starting at left back for the visitors. It’s always a bittersweet occasion when former players return, but Harvey was so loved by supporters during his seven seasons in Vancouver that cheering against him is going to be hard. We haven’t yet had a chance to collectively thank him for his years of service, so perhaps an impromptu ovation for him pre-match or in the second minute will allow us to temporarily hate him for the next 87.
We’re not yet sure of where David Ousted will end up, but if it’s DC United, we won’t see him in Vancouver this year, as we play them away on July 14 to open their new stadium.
New York City away August 4
Two years ago I went to this fixture with a small group of Whitecaps supporters. Watching a soccer match in Yankee Stadium is awful, but there is nothing like spending a summer long weekend in New York. The Third Rail, NYCFC’s supporter group, are great to hang out with, welcoming and they convene across the street from the stadium for beer and banter right after the match. If you head along to this fixture, you will have a great time. If you can find a Red Bulls supporter to go with, it will be a magnitude better.
Some years the schedule lines up so that you can make a good road trip following the ‘Caps down the coast, or through the Rocky Mountains or around the Eastern seaboard. This year the schedule is rather friendlier to home fans, as we have more alternating weeks and less large gaps in the schedule. Definitely more balanced, and more “normal” compared to leagues elsewhere, but that isn’t optimal for epic road trips. Having seen three and four week swathes of away fixtures in previous seasons, the most the ‘Caps have at any given time this year will be two.
If you do want to take to the road, any match down the coast is a good shout. There is a preseason game at LA Galaxy on February 24 and a league match there on September 29. The LAFC away fixture is October 21 (the February preseason friendly isn’t at their new stadium, so this is the first time to check out their impressive new home) and San Jose is August 25. The Earthquakes new stadium is apparently a thing of beauty, and, if you can avoid the Ultras, their other supporters groups are friendly and welcoming at tailgates.
Salt Lake City is a fairly easy drive as well, and the Rogue Cavaliers Brigade are a fun group to hang out with at the tailgate drinking Wasatch Brewery “Polygamy Porter” and wearing their “We’ve come for your wives” scarves. You’ll get a different view of Utah culture from them. The only issue with this road trip is that it happens in early April, and trust me, it can be cold in Rio Tinto at that time of year, as vey much demonstrated with last year’s snow match.
Bucket list stadiums
If you want to visit some of the best and most iconic stadiums in MLS, you have to make it to Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City on April 20, Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on March 17 or Mapfre Stadium in Columbus on March 31, for what may well be the last ever Whitecaps-Crew match up. Mapfre was the first soccer specific stadium in the US, made of aluminum bleachers and wide concourses set on the site of the State Fairgrounds. I’ve been there three times, and it’s a lovely park but will not likely survive the loss of the Crew to Austin.
Blue and White Airforce
If you time things right, you can travel with the team to away fixtures by air. There are direct flights from Vancouver to Seattle, Portland, Denver, Salt Lake City, Dallas, Minneapolis, Toronto, Houston, Toronto, San Jose, Los Angeles, Washington, New York, and Montreal (in the Voyageurs Cup), all of which are away fixtures this year.
So a lot of planning now begins. What’s your thoughts on the ‘Caps schedule for the upcoming season? Happy it’s more balanced? Gutted at losing two Cascadian derbies? Where are you most excited to head off to this year? Any new grounds in your plans or are you a little disappointed at how things have shaped up? Let us know in the comments.