Jump to content

CP: Whitecaps Look to Defend Title

Recommended Posts

Whitecaps look to defend title


(CP) - It has been 28 years since the Vancouver Whitecaps went into a season as defending champions and coach Bob Lilley is confident his team can contend for another title.

On Saturday, the Whitecaps open their United Soccer Leagues First Division season against the visiting Seattle Sounders while the Montreal Impact plays the Silverbacks in Atlanta.

Last fall, the Whitecaps upset the first-place Impact in the semifinals and went on to defeat the Rochester Raging Rhinos for their first title since 1979, when they won the championship of the defunct North American Soccer League.

"It's a nice accomplishment, but it won't score us any goals this season," Lilley said Wednesday. "There will be high expectations from the fans and the media, but we have the same expectations for another good season and to put ourselves in position to compete for another championship."

Vancouver and Montreal are the only Canadian teams left in the top division as the lowly Toronto Lynx dropped out to leave the Ontario capital to the expansion Toronto FC of Major League Soccer.

The Whitecaps didn't lose any players to Toronto FC, but defender Geordie Lyall jumped to England. Montreal lost star goalkeeper Greg Sutton and right back Adam Braz to Toronto.

League MVP Joey Gjertsen, fellow striker Eduardo Sebrango and heady midfielder Martin Nash are among the core of returning Whitecaps players.

Lilley looks to replace Lyall with defender Narcisse Syrille Tchoumi from FC Yaounde of the first division in Cameroon. He also added midfielder Jared Montz from Chicago Fire of MLS and forward Joel Bailey from the Impact.

Vancouver also got striker Jason McLaughlin in a trade with Montreal for forward Sita-Taty Matondo, which Lilley hopes will give size and more physical play to their attack.

Wednesday was a big day for the Impact, as they broke ground on Saputo Stadium, the 13,000-to-17,000 seat facility that will become their home in 2008.

Team president Joey Saputo, his father Lino and a tent full of government and private sector supporters were on hand for the ceremony to start construction on the $15-million venue entirely financed by the Saputo cheese-making family.

"Joey had a vision," said Impact coach Nick de Santis. "He waited for the right moment."

"The team's popularity, kept growing every year and this was possible because of the success on the field and the credibility off the field."

The Impact won a second league title in 2004, but have been knocked out in the playoffs two straight years despite strong regular seasons.

Major personnel changes were made.

De Santis has yet to decide whether returning backup Andrew Weber or newcomer Matt Jordan will replace Sutton as the No. 1 goalie. He has yet to say who will start in Atlanta.

David Fronimadis and ex-Lynx Andres Arango have a shot at being promoted to Braz's old spot.

The coach hopes to have found the play-making midfielder the team lacked last season with the signing of Martin Fabro of Argentina.

"We needed creativity in the midfield last year and he's shown that he's going be a player fans will love to watch," de Santis said. "He's very creative, very energetic and he likes to go to the goal."

"We changed the forwards as well, so we're excited for this team."

Among the new forwards, hopes are pinned on is Brazilian Frederico Moojen.

A strong core with midfielders Mauro Biello and Ze Roberto and defenders Nevio Pizzolito, Gabriel Gervais and Mauricio Vincello remains.

The USL got a pre-season setback when Virginia Beach folded in an ownership dispute March 29, forcing a quick shuffling of the schedule.

New franchises were added in California (San Francisco) and Cary, N.C.

Both Vancouver and Montreal should be competing for a title again.

"In two of the last three years, the championship has come to Canada and I'm sure both us and Montreal will try to keep that going," said Lilley, a former Impact coach. "It's two franchises that represent Canada very well."

The Whitecaps also have a stadium of anywhere from 15,000 to 35,000 seats in the works, but nothing has been finalized, so they will stay at snug Swangard Stadium in suburban Burnaby, B.C., where they averaged 5,085 last season.

Montreal led the USL last year with 11,554 fans per game at Claude Robillard Stadium.

A highlight for the Whitecaps this year should be a friendly match Oct. 3 against David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy of MLS, which will be played indoors at B.C. Place.

"He's an international star and the guys are looking forward to it," said Lilley. "It's good to test ourselves against MLS clubs."

"It's important to keep raising the bar."

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...