Vancouver Whitecaps are back at Swangard Stadium!
The Whitecaps will take to the luscious grass pitch at noon on Sunday to take on FC Tigers Vancouver in the latest friendly match for the Whitecaps U23 side, as the club try and get some important playing time for their young guys on the fringes of the MLS squad and their developmental team.
And while it might just be a friendly, it’s sure to evoke many happy memories for long time ‘Caps supporters who miss the wild and crazy times of standing in the Southside during the USL days.
The match will be the second meeting between the two teams this summer, with the Whitecaps running out 4-0 winners back on June 21st in a friendly at Burnaby Lake, led by a stunning first half hat-trick from Emiliano Brienza (you can see the goals below).
Final score at Burnaby Lake tonight was @WhitecapsFC U23's 4 @fctigerssoccer 0. First half hat-trick from Emiliano Brienza, who spent preseason with 'Caps first team. He looked, good, sharp, and hungry. Here's his three goals. pic.twitter.com/HTLGhXbLZB
— AFTN (@aftncanada) June 22, 2021
The Whitecaps U23 side have played a number of friendly matches this summer, including a 2-0 win over Edmonton Scottish and a 1-0 win over Calgary Foothills last month.
With cross border travel restrictions leaving the academy teams with no league to play in, many of the young guys have been left in limbo. Friendlies are great, but nothing beats playing in league and cup games. That will soon change, with the U19s, led by head coach Nick Dasovic, joining the Fraser Valley Soccer League (FVSL) Premier Division from September, and the U17 and U15 teams playing in the new MLS NEXT leagues.
The U23s, led by Vanni Sartini, will take part in the new MLS reserve league that is slated to start next year, although confirmed details remain scant, and the U19s will play in the newly formed BC League 1 from next summer, which will also include a women’s division.
That leaves the U23 squad and some of the young homegrowns on the Whitecaps MLS roster, with a lot of time before they are playing in meaningful matches. Some like Theo Bair and Gianfranco Facchineri have been loaned out, others like Patrick Metcalfe may pick up some MLS minutes here and there, some just need to play somewhere, making these friendlies all the more important.
“I think we give a lot of opportunities to young players, a lot,” ‘Caps coach Marc Dos Santos told AFTN. “With the first team, Javain Brown, Thomas Hasal, Ranko [Veselinovic], Guti, Baldi, Pat [Metcalfe], Deiber. The amount of times we played with an average age of 23-years-old in MLS, that is very hard to do.
“It’s easy when you’re called Ajax, and it’s easy when you’re called Barcelona. It’s not easy to be in MLS and play with a lot of young guys. We’ve done it and we’re going to keep giving opportunities to young players, but we can’t do it with everybody at the same time. It’s not easy. That’s why some players are on loan. It helps their process.”
This will be the first U23 game since the first team have been back home in Vancouver, allowing the ‘Caps the ability to get some of their MLS guys some much need competitive minutes.
And that is certainly the plan for Sunday.
“There is no doubt that we need to have this U23 league in place as soon as possible,” Dos Santos continued. “We’ve needed to be home to have some of these younger players that are not in the 20, that are not on the trip to LA, to play in Swangard on Sunday and we will have a couple doing that.
“That proves that it’s so important that integration is made with the reserve team, the U23, or a B team. I know as a coach that there’s a financial implication to it, I know all of that, but technically it’s the only way that you allow these players to keep growing in the path. For sure that’s one of the biggest positives for us being [back] here.”
Sunday’s match up should be an entertaining encounter. The previous meeting saw the Tigers in preseason mode and missing some of their key players. Now back to full strength, with some new additions in their ranks, they’re looking to build on a strong Pacific Coast Soccer League season that saw them finish atop the standings and prepare for their own FVSL Premier campaign.
The Whitecaps will most likely feature goalkeeper Isaac Boehmer and defender Matteo Campagna from the MLS squad, with midfielder Kamron Habibullah another possibility to be in the line-up. They will join the likes of Brienza, who was pushing for a MLS deal preseason before picking up an injury, former WFC2 players Nicolas Apostol and Alan Camacho, and Campagna’s brother Cristian, who is back home for the summer from the University of Albany, in what is another exciting crop of young talent coming through the Whitecaps ranks.
The game kicks off at noon and admission is free. Covid protocols will be in place and the Tigers would like fans to sign up for their tickets in advance. You can do so by scanning the QR code on the flyer below. For those unable to attend, you can watch the game live or on delay on the Tigers YouTube channel HERE. AFTN will be providing the match commentary.