Soccer night in Vancouver

I was thrilled when the MLS schedule was released to see there was a Whitecaps FC match in Vancouver while I was visiting.  After a long string of trips where I just missed out on soccer matches, this made it three in a row of visiting soccer cities and getting to see a match (Prague for a Sparta match and Rome for a Lazio match).  On a picture perfect Vancouver evening, I made my way to BC Place.  People were out early for the game and enjoying the sun just outside the stadium  The only letdown was a malfunction in the retractable roof that kept the evening’s game from being played under a clear sky.

Outside BC Place

I was there for the doors opening so I could wander around the stadium and grab supper while watching warmups.  BC Place is a beautiful place to watch a match:

Inside BC Place

After a little bit of checking out some food stands, I picked up dinner and grabbed a seat in one of the corners to catch a bit of the DC United warmups.  I don’t think there’s a bad seat in the place.

Watching Whitecaps FC warmups

I had heard that there was a Vij’s stand at the stadium, so there was little doubt about what I would get to eat.  On my only previous trip to Vancouver, I had a remarkable meal at his restaurant, and the food at the stadium didn’t disappoint even with those high expectations.  I got a chicken and chickpea curry dish with rice and naan and a Stanley Park amber ale.  I’ve eaten a lot of stadium food over the years, but this meal is up there with best I’ve had.

Vij's curry at the game

I watched the warmups from a few places around the pitch and then made my over to my seat on the far side of the field in time for the player introductions.  As the Whitecaps came on the field, everyone held up their scarves to welcome them.

Pregame Whitecaps FC

I was sitting near the end with the most ardent Whitecaps supporters.  Their supporter groups take up residence in this end and spend the entire game cheering, singing and leading chants.  Here’s the Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted acknowledging the fans before the start of the match.

Goalkeeper saluting the fans

The crowd had filled in nicely just before the opening kick.  It was announced as a sellout, but there were a good number of no shows, likely due to the fact that the Canucks were playing a playoff game in Calgary that night at the same time.  Everyone around me was checking in on that game on their phones constantly.  I was too because I had a ticket to a possible game seven two nights later.  Alas, as the night wore on, the Canucks coughed up an early 3-0 lead and  went on to lose just as the soccer game was nearing completion.   But enough about hockey and my failed hope to see a game seven, the soccer match got underway and I was excited to settle in for ninety minutes.

Opening kick

The game got off to a roaring start with the Whitecaps scoring only two minutes in.  Here’s the goal scorer, Morales, with the classic celebration sans shirt.  That move cost him an early yellow card.

Celebrating the Whitecaps FC goal

The game continued at a breakneck pace and less than eight minutes later DC United equalized via a header off a nice cross into the box.   That quieted the crowd somewhat, but did nothing to slow the pace of the game.   The first half was a blur of scoring chances, mostly for the Whitecaps.  This was a near miss off an in close header in the 33rd minute that would have  put the Whitecaps up one.

Action at Whitecaps FC game

That miss was costly as a few minutes later, a Whitecaps player was sent off for his second yellow card of the match.  The officiating was quite poor on the night and the game was especially chippy, particularly in the first half.   The ref had to give the second yellow (and hence a red card) for a late challenge, but the first one he gave was a ticky tack call.   That set up a 1-1 game heading to the second half with the Whitecaps down a man.

Early in the second half, DC United came out flying, and if not for two impressive saves by Ousted, the Whitecaps would have been out of the match entirely.   But with momentum swinging their way, United went ahead 2-1 with about 25 minutes to play.  At that point, it felt like game over for the shorthanded Whitecaps FC, but a few substitutions later, and it was all out end to end soccer.   The Whitecaps had countless chances to equalize (and left United a number of prime chances to salt the match away at the other end) with a number of close in free kicks and corners.  In stoppage time, Ousted sprinted the length of the field to add an extra attacker on a number of set pieces to try to find the second goal.   Below, he almost gets his head on a corner (he’s in green).

Last attempt to tie game by Whitecaps FC

Alas, the home team couldn’t equalize, but played their hearts out over the last twenty minutes.  The game was a blast to watch and I left thoroughly entertained.   If I lived in Vancouver, I’d have season tickets – the team has a lot of talent and the atmosphere inside BC Place was a lot of fun.  It was great to experience this, even if only for one night.

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