Empire Field – July 18
After one of the rainiest July weekends on record, I’m sure more than a few in the Whitecaps head office were thrilled when the clouds parted and sun burst forth over the Bell Pitch at Empire Field as the Whitecaps welcomed Manchester City Football Club, of the English Premier League. Having installed a grass pitch over top of the usual turf field combined with the unseasonal wet weather created a ‘perfect storm’ of unfortunate circumstances for the Whitecaps as the grounds became waterlogged and deemed unplayable for their MLS game versus Real Salt Lake on Saturday. Fingers and toes were crossed for the weather gods to smile and dry out the pitch enough to be playable for the first ‘big’ friendly of the Whitecaps MLS era.
Thankfully two days of drier weather and countless hours by grounds crews and restoration teams managed to make the pitch playable for the 7pm kick-off. In spite of the drama, a festive atmostphere took over the grounds as the 24,000+ crowd gathered. Many took the opportunity to get their picture taken with the FA Cup brought on tour by current cup holders MCFC.
As the match began a good mix of supporters of both teams were treated to a well played, exciting game. Especially good for the home side, who sit last in the MLS table, playing a lively, effective first half to go into the break leading 1-0. After the half, and a wholesale substitution of players on both sides another thrilling half as both teams had good opportunities, Man City scored twice and Whitecap keeper Jay Nolley made some excellent saves to keep the score to just 1-2 for Man City at the final.
Bringing teams of this calibre and being able to ‘play up’ to their level will certainly win over the fans and give the Whitecap players some extra confidence in their play going in to the later half of the regular season. If this many turn out for a quality friendly at Empire Field, great crowds should be seen once the team moves into BC Place downtown. We can hardly wait!