Although Vancouver Whitecaps FC might be new to MLS, the Vancouver Whitecaps are no stranger to the world of professional soccer. This Sunday, Dynamo fans will have their first chance to see one of two expansions club to join the league this season. We at HoustonDynamo.com are here to give you a primer of the Canadian club ahead of their first visit to Robertson Stadium.
The original Whitecaps
The original Vancouver Whitecaps were founded in 1973 and played in the North American Soccer League from 1974 until the league's demise in 1984. At that time, the league's championship game was called the Soccer Bowl. The Whitecaps defeated the Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-1 to win the 1979 Soccer Bowl in front of 64,000 fans at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Although 1979 was the only year the Whitecaps won a championship, the team was a huge success in Vancouver, regularly playing to sell-out crowds in their 32,000-seat Empire Stadium.
As part of the demise of the NASL, the Whitecaps folded, paving the way for a new Vancouver club to form. Originally called the Vancouver 86ers, the club included former Dynamo great Pat Onstad (his first club at the age of 19) played in the Canadian Soccer League and won four straight CSL championships from 1988-91. After the CSL folded in 1992, the 86ers moved to the APSL which, after undergoing two name changes, became the USL. In 2001, the team went back to its roots, using the name Vancouver Whitecaps. The Whitecaps won the USL championship twice and in 2009 were officially named an MLS expansion club, set to join the league in 2011.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC are coached by Teitur Thordarson, a former Icelandic football player who scored 117 goals in 285 total appearances in Europe. Thordarson took over the reins of the Whitecaps in 2007 and, the following year, led the team to its second USL championship in three seasons. With successful coaching stints in Sweden, Norway, Estonia, and his native Iceland, and a successful three seasons in the USL, Thordarson was named head coach of the soon-to-be MLS club Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
The Seattle Sounders are widely known for their celebrity owner Drew Carey, but the Vancouver Whitecaps offer up a celebrity ownership group of their own. The Whitecaps ownership group is made up of four people: Greg Kerfoot, Steve Luczo, Jeff Mallett, and Phoenix Suns point guard and Vancouver native Steve Nash. Nash has been a vocal advocate for his club and was on hand to see the Whitecaps defeat Toronto FC 4-2 in their inaugural game on March 19. His younger brother, Martin, is a former Whitecaps captain and currently part of the team's technical staff.
The Whitecaps technical staff used many avenues to fill out its roster for the 2011 season. Almost half of the players were signed from Vancouver's USL club or youth system, but others were drafted via the MLS Expansion Draft and SuperDraft, while others were traded for or signed on the international market. Vancouver's most notable signing was U.S. national team center back Jay DeMerit. DeMerit has been capped 25 times by the U.S. national team and started all of his team's games in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. DeMerit was the first player officially signed to the new club and has subsequently been named team captain.
Other players of note are:
Omar Salgado - A 17-year-old from El Paso, Texas, Salgado made headlines last year when he chose to represent the U.S .U-20 national team, which led his club Chivas de Guadalajara to cut ties with the promising striker. The Whitecaps drafted Salgado with first overall pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft. Salgado missed his team's last few games due to U-20 World Cup qualifying matches, but with the U.S. losing 2-1 last week to Guatemala, Salgado could be set to make his MLS debut this weekend, in Houston.
Eric Hassli - The club's first Designated Player, French forward Hassli scored 27 goals in 84 appearances for Zurich from 2007-2011. In three games this season, Hassli has tallied three goals, but has also picked up two red cards (one in the most unlikely fashion) and is suspended for this weekend's match against Houston.
Atiba Harris - The 26-year-old striker, who previously played for Real Salt Lake, Chivas USA, and FC Dallas, is no stranger to matchups with the Dynamo. Harris was selected by the Whitecaps in the 2011 MLS Expansion Draft and has tallied two goals in four games.
Camilo - A relatively unknown striker who spent 2010 playing professional football in South Korea, Camilo made a big splash in MLS two weeks ago against Sporting KC. The diminutive striker scored two goals in stoppage time to even the match and earn a 3-3 draw for his club. The goals were Camilo's only finishes in four appearances, but he will certainly be asked to lead the Vancouver attack on Sunday, with the suspensions of Hassli and midfielder Gershon Koffie.