2019 is over. So are the 2010s. It’s been a challenging year for Vancouver Whitecaps and, at times, a very testing decade for supporters.
There’s been highs of course, but far more lows. There’s been hopes raised, but far more dashed.
The decade started for the Whitecaps as a second tier club, preparing to make the jump to Major League Soccer. It ended with the ‘Caps finishing bottom of the MLS Western Conference, with the second worst record in the league. If there was promotion and relegation between MLS and USL, the Whitecaps would have finished the decade as a second tier club once again.
In that regard, thankfully that doesn’t exist.
There were few constants for the Whitecaps during the decade. Russell Teibert was one, but aside from him, and failing to win much silverware and success, it’s been a decade of constant change.
But we don’t want to end the decade looking on the downside of things. Let’s celebrate some highs, and today we bring you what have been my personal top five highlights for Vancouver Whitecaps during the 2010s. If there’s any others you feel deserve a mention or a higher placing then, let us know in the comments below!
(5) 2016/2017 CONCACAF Champions League Run
The CONCACAF Champions League is a competition I feel is hugely undervalued in North America. The new format will hopefully start to see that change a little, as will the newly expanded FIFA Club World Cup, and it may take a MLS side to win it for it to actually put it over the line in some people’s consciousness, but it’s a great competition and I’ve enjoyed the Whitecaps brief forays in it last decade.
The 2016/17 run was particularly memorable, giving the Whitecaps the chance to face world class competition competitively for the first time, in the shape of Liga MX side Tigres, and while they ultimately fell short at the semi-final stage, it served up some great memories.
It had all started in August and September 2016 when the Whitecaps won their qualifying group with four wins, two each against fellow MLSers Sporting Kansas City and Trinidad and Tobago side Central FC. Cristian Techera and Erik Hurtado had risen to the occasion, and even Alphonso Davies got in the act with his first ever first team goal in the away win over SKC.
That group win set up a quarter-final clash against New York Red Bulls and a 3-1 aggregate win set up the semi-final clash with UANL Tigres. The ‘Caps lost 4-1 on aggregate but they gave a good account of themselves, leaving us pondering a few “what if” moments from the first leg around Kendall Waston own goal and Brek Shea’s huge miss.
The second leg at BC Place saw the ‘Caps put themselves right back in the tie through Shea just three minutes in before falling short in the second half. The atmosphere that night was fantastic with the Mexican fans in attendance, as was the play over the two legs. It left me wanting more and hopefully we don’t have to wait too long to get it.
(4) Alphonso Davies’ Transfer To Bayern Munich
Now I know some of you may have this higher on your own personal lists, and maybe I would have too if we’d actually seen some end result of the transfer fee that Alphonso Davies’ transfer to German giants Bayern Munich had brought in. We still might, but all that aside, there’s no doubting that this deal was a momentous moment for the club.
Davies was clearly a talent from the moment he arrive into the Whitecaps academy system. You could see he was something special with the U16s and U18s. He learned his trade a little bit more in the USL with WFC2, then he signed his MLS deal and although he showed some exciting early glimpses, it was without producing goals. It all seemed to click in 2018 and he was soon heading off to pastures new by the end of that year in a record-breaking deal.
It could be worth $22 million to the ‘Caps. They got around $13 million initially. A massive fee for a massive talent and he’s started to really find his feet now over in Germany. Delighted for him as he was such a wonderful, down to earth lad in his time here and a real pleasure to chat with.
It was a great bit of business for the club and with so many of the world’s top sides sniffing around Davies, I’m sure a few of them have been keeping close tabs on what other products may be coming through the system in Vancouver. Now let’s just see that money put to good use.
(3) Eric Hassli’s Wonder Goal Against Seattle
Whether you can say that the Davies transfer put Vancouver Whitecaps on the map or not is arguable. It certainly will have put them on people’s radar and raised awareness of them in certain quarters. As did Eric Hassli’s wonder volley against Seattle in 2011 that went viral around the world. Our goal of the season and our goal of the decade.
The trip to Seattle on June 11th 2011 was always going to be a special one. Our first trip to our Cascadian rivals on MLS business. The season wasn’t going great, we’d sacked our manager 12 games in and were languishing at the bottom of the standings. I’m not sure many people expected much but Hassli put the ‘Caps ahead from the spot in the 29th minute and the large contingent of travelling supporters were jubilant.
And we stayed that way until future Whitecap Mauro Rosales tied things up in the 81st minute. Three minutes later and we were 2-1 behind after Ossie Alonso struck. The long trip home was now looking bleak but before any thoughts of that could sink in the ‘Caps struck back immediately as Hassli got the ball on the edge of the box, took a sublime first touch to knock the ball up and then finished it even more sublimely with a breathtaking volley.
Stunning stuff and still gives you the chills watching it back all these years later.
(2) 2015 Voyageurs Cup Win
It was such a long time coming and it sometimes feels like it’s going to be a long time before another one comes along, but the 2015 Voyageurs Cup triumph was a night that will live long in the memories of Whitecaps supporters. The fact that the trophy was lifted at home just made it all the more memorable.
One win in 18 appearances (12 if you’re only counting the Canadian Championship/CCL aspect of it all) is actually pretty shocking stuff, especially when there were only three teams in it at one point.
But that’s for another time. For now, let’s just enjoy that 2015 success and the memories it served up:
– Gershon Koffie saving the Whitecaps’ blushes in the semi-final first leg at BC Place against FC Edmonton with an 87th minute equaliser.
– Matias Laba saving them even later in the second leg with a 97th minute winner in Edmonton.
– Taking a two goal second half lead in the final in Montreal, only to give up two goals in a minute late on to take an away goal advantage into the second leg.
– The Impact’s Victor Cabrera getting sent off on the half hour mark in the second leg, easing nerves and letting Whitecaps fans dream.
– Octavio Rivero putting the Whitecaps ahead in the 40th minute with Tim Parker sealing the deal and the victory in the 53rd.
– Captain Pedro Morales finally lifting a Voyageurs Cup for Vancouver
– Pa Modou Kah riding around the pitch dancing on a hoverboard.
August 26th 2015. Man, what a night.
(1) MLS Inaugural Match Against Toronto FC
Certain dates are etched into Vancouver Whitecaps folklore, like the one above. March 19th 2011 is most certainly another.
That was the day that the Whitecaps’ MLS adventure kicked off. And it started in some style. A 4-2 win over Canadian rivals Toronto FC at Empire Field was just the final part of a magical day. From the Christmas morning buzz of waking up and knowing that the day was finally here, to the pre-match build up and sing-a-longs in the electric atmosphere of Oscar’s Pub on Hastings, to the first ever march to the match, to seeing the stadium, throwing ponchos, and, of course, the game itself.
I still get shivers thinking about that day, especially when I was looking through my photos and videos of every part of it as I prepared this piece. It was fantastic from start to finish.
Eric Hassli had already written himself into Whitecaps folklore by becoming the club’s first Designated Player and he became the club’s first MLS scorer in the 15th minute. Dwayne DeRosario tied things up five minutes later for TFC, but the ‘Caps weren’t to be denied and local lad Terry Dunfield made it 2-1 in the 26th minute. Atiba Harris added a third in the 63rd and Hassli got his second of the afternoon with 18 minutes remaining. The fans were in ecstasy and even Maicon dos Santos’ late consolation couldn’t put a dampener on the day.
That 2011 season was something of a horrorshow at times and the subsequent eight seasons haven’t exactly seen the Whitecaps bathed in glory. I still miss the USL days of Swangard, but despite the struggles, there’s no doubt that the ‘Caps made the move the MLS at exactly the right time. And when we look back in future years on some highlights from the club’s MLS era, this one day in particular will always take some (trophy shaped) beating.