Whitecaps defeat Toronto FC in MLS debut at Empire Stadium
The clouds broke, the sun came out and the snow-topped mountains appeared for the Vancouver Whitecaps FC inaugural MLS match and the 23,000+ fans flooded Empire Stadium in a white sea of scarves.
What a game! Move over Canucks, Vancouverites have new brood to bang their drums about. The atmosphere was fantastic with supporters stomping the metal stands, chanting “White” and “Caps” back and forth across the stadium and tossing their white pouch packets (ponchos) onto the field after a goal.
Eric Hassli opened the gates with a goal in the opening half and the place was delirious. Followed by a Toronto goal from national team star Dwayne De Rosario, the Wave continued with a finish by home town hero Terry Dunfield who was yellow carded for jumping into the crowd to celebrate his return from a career in England. Fast forward forty five minutes with a goal repeat by Hassli, Harris and Toronto’s Santos, the score board ended with a 4 – 2 Vancouver win in the history books.
But the game wasn’t about the score even though it certainly was the story. With the drums banging, plastic sticks clacking, feet stomping in a sold out Empire and even some mass “bullshit” chants after a bad call, we all knew this is the beginning of something special. Soccer has arrived with a bang in this city and we all came to celebrate. We have been waiting for something to happen in our country for so long and it seems now, we truly have a future ahead of us.
Thank you Whitecaps. Soccer is now on the big stage and it is just the beginning of major stars coming to town, future Canucks to cheer for in upcoming World Cups and the beloved Beautiful Game finally getting some respect. Quite frankly, it was a lot of fun. We didn’t need to be entertained by cheerleaders, blaring music every time the ball went out of bounds or distracting marketing gimmicks by sponsors. The game was all we needed – beautiful, fast, poetic, hard with lots of goals and dramas, the players on the field satisfied us with a perfect afternoon of passion and determination. Even better, when I asked season ticket holder Chris Beneteau what kicks him off about soccer, he replied, another sport to beat Toronto, I love it. Fans sang “na na na goodbye” as the clock ticked down on their 4-2 victory.
Photographer’s Note: I asked Whitecaps back up goal keeper Joe Cannon what he thought of Brazilian Maicon Santos’ shot from long range that beat Jay Nolly top corner. He replied, “That guy just showed up,” suggesting that he was unknown to most people around the league (including him)… until that shot.