Growing up in Vancouver as a player of the beautiful game, the Whitecaps (and by extension for a period of time, the 86ers) have always counted on me being a fan. I can’t say I’ve made it to as many games, having sporadically attended them when they played at Swangard Stadium, but I do remember attending one game when I was really young at Empire Stadium. So when the opportunity of becoming a seasons ticket holder for the inaugural season in the MLS presented itself, I spent money I didn’t really have and became one. Hurray for credit!
Unfortunately, I didn’t get an opportunity to attend the home opener against Toronto FC as I was in Vegas for a friend’s wedding – what a match to have missed! The ‘caps took it to the squad from the Big Smoke and triumphed with a 4-2 result under cooperative skies – all accounts had me hearing that Empire Field was the perfect venue for an ecstatic soccer crowd. So upon arrival for the second home match against Sporting Kansas City, I was pretty darn amped.
Presentation wise, the Whitecaps FC and Empire Field staff have done a tremendous job at outfitting the stadium. I would imagine they picked up a few pointers from the BC Lions past season, but mad props for putting together a welcoming venue – even the lineups for beer and food were manageable all things considered.
And then there was the match itself. Having grown up on the sport (played, officiated, and coached at various levels youth and adult), I have always understood that the result is not final until the last whistle is blown. Although the Whitecaps carried play for much of the first half, Sporting was able to notch a late marker during injury time to go up by one. Then early in the second half, two complete “brain farts” by the ‘caps set them down by three. Making matters worse, the traitor-some Teal Bunbury had scored those first two KC goals.
But as mentioned earlier, the match wasn’t over quite yet.
With head coach Teitur Thordarson (don’t make Teitur mad, you don’t want to see Teitur mad) sending in Davide Chiumiento and Nizar Khalfan late in the second, the substitutions began to go to work on what appeared to be a tired opposing back line. In the 73rd minute, Atiba Harris notched the ‘caps first goal of the day after Khalfan burned past the KC right back. Then in injury time, Camilo notched his first and second goals just a minute apart to tie the game. No word of a lie, I thought Empire Field was about to explode. I can’t begin to imagine what would have happened had Camilo been able to notch the hatty just a minute after that (his shot missed just high and wide).
I’ve seen comebacks before. But there’s something about the one I witnessed on Saturday that has me already jonesing for what may occur Wednesday night the New England Revolution. It was as close to magical as I can describe. In fact, if you weren’t there you missed something you’ll never see again.
So where will you be? Will you be with us at Empire Field? Buy a ticket, take the pledge, and make sure you’re in your seat before kickoff!