Away From The Numbers

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC (PART ONE)

Vancouver Whitecaps Old CrestVancouver Whitecaps NASL CrestVancouver Whitecaps NASL StripVancouver Whitecaps StripVancouver 86ers CrestVancouver Whitecaps Crest

The summer, in some ways, is dreadful. Despite campaigns for change and the odd national tournament, there's no footie! AFTN doesn't like that, so we thought we'd focus on our team to support for the summer. AFTN's alternative team of choice. You'll find them in the North American A-League and that team is the VANCOUVER WHITECAPS.

Canadian football teams, and the Whitecaps in particular, have a big Scottish influence and AFTN has this pipe dream fantasy of trying to tie up a link between the Whitecaps and East Fife! Even if it's just amongst the fans.

And surprisingly, East Fife and the Vancouver Whitecaps even share a player! Willie Johnston left West Brom for Vancouver after his infamous return home from the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, before ending up playing for the mighty Fife in a handful of games at the end of his career.

Vancouver Whitecaps Old Crest
The Whitecaps are one of the most recognized sports teams in North America. Born in 1974, Vancouver was awarded a NASL (North American Soccer League) franchise. The name "Whitecaps" is chosen signifying "Whitecaps" on the water and the Mountains. The team debuted in front of 18,000 people at Empire Stadium against the San Jose Earthquakes losing 2-1 in a shootout. By 1978 the Whitecaps had grown to be the city's top sports franchise, and soccer had become the most popular sport in the province.

In 1979, they became Vancouver's only franchise to win a major North American Championship. It was a magical year for soccer in Vancouver. Coming off a record breaking year in 1978 including a 13 game winning streak, and "North American Player of the Year" honours for Bob Lenarduzzi, the Caps were poised to take Vancouver on a magic carpet ride that would go down in history.

The year opened with a new look, and a sign of things to come. After a high flying season, they marched into the playoffs led by "King" Kevin Hector, Phil "Lofty" Parks, England World Cup hero Alan Ball, homegrown star Bob Lenarduzzi and our very own "Wee" Willie Johnston.

Vancouver Whitecaps Old Crest
The Caps were drawn against the L. A. Aztecs and the great Johan Cruyff in the conference semi-finals. After dropping the first game 3-2 in L. A., the caps needed not only to win the return game at Empire, but also a tie-breaking mini-game. In front of jam packed full house of 32,000, the caps took the opening game 1-0 in a shoot-out, and then in a nail biting finale, win the mini-game in a 1-0 shoot-out.

I know, this whole mini-game concept is bizarre!

On to the conference finals against a star studded New York Cosmos line-up that included, the "Kaiser" Franz Beckenbauer, and Italian star Georgio Chinaglia. All 32,000 seats sell in 1 hour for game one at Empire. In a suspense filled game, the Caps win 2-0. The return game in New York will go down as one of the greatest games in North American soccer history. The Cosmos take the game to tie the series, but the Caps prevailed in 1-0 shoot-out win on a goal by Derek Possee, after three and a half hours of football!

The Whitecaps captured the NASL "Soccer Bowl" championship - defeating the Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-1 with goals by Trevor Wymark and they came home to the largest reception in BC history, over 100,000 people. And for a hockey mad city and country, that's some going!

In 1983 the Whitecaps moved into BC Place. The first game, a 2-1 win over the Seattle Sounders, draws 60,000 fans. The move was short lived however, for in 1984 the NASL and Whitecaps after 10 seasons folded due to league instability.

In 1986, out of the NASL ashes, came the new professional Canadian Soccer League.

Vancouver 86ers Crest
Vancouver's new pro team, the "86ERS", are here. An overflow crowd of 7,600 fans jams Swangard Stadium to witness former Whitecap Bob Lenarduzzi coach the club to an emotional 4-2 win over Edmonton with long-time Whitecap Carl Valentine scoring the first goal in club history.

The team goes on to compile a North American record 46-game winning streak over the next 2 seasons and dominate the CSL with 4 consecutive playoff championships (1988-91) and 5 straight regular-season first-place finishes (1988-92).

Businessman Milan Ilich took over the team in 1989, and in 1992 the club moved from the floundering CSL to the new (APSL) American Professional Soccer League. The team took on a new look, logo and colours.

After leading the team to the APSL semifinals, coach and General Manger Bobby Lenarduzzi, steps down after seven seasons to become Canada's National Team coach. Carl Valentine takes over as the club's head coach.

In 1997 the APSL becomes the A-League. That same year the 86ers are purchased by David Braley of the BC Lions Canadian Gridiron football team. Lenarduzzi returned from the National team to become General Manager, and another former Whitecap Dale Mitchell, took over from Valentine as the clubs third head coach.

In August 2000 the club is sold by owner David Braley to local owner David Stadnyk. Under Stadnyk the 86ers revert back to the name Whitecaps. They unveil a new logo and new-look jerseys designed in a tribute to their Soccer Bowl championship of 1979. The new Whitecaps club, playing to record crowds, has an outstanding season, bowing out late in the playoffs.

That same year saw the birth of the franchises' new entry on the local soccer scene, the Vancouver Breakers Women's team. The Breakers took on many of the players that played the previous season under the Vancouver Angels Banner.

The Breakers, playing in the W-League, captured the imagination of the Vancouver fans with a record setting season leading to a heart breaking loss in the finals.

2002 is marked by change and turbulence. As a sign of things to come, popular coach Dale Mitchell leaves the team to coach Canada's Under 20 team, and is replaced by Tony Fonseca. That is just the beginning. Citing crippling financial losses, Owner David Stadnyk, walks away from the franchise in mid-season handing the rights over to the USL's A-League. The A-League appoints Bob Lenarduzzi head of a search committee which leads to new owner Greg Kerfoot.

It seems that wherever you look in the world, football clubs are in crisis.

The team bounced back from this latest setback, however, and had a stability year in 2003. They opened their 2004 Season, drawing 0-0 with new Club Edmonton Aviators, in front of a sell-out 5,722 fans. The team had high hopes for the season, having a batch of Canadian National Team players in their squad, including Davide Xausa, who was with Livingston, St Johnstone and Falkirk, and fellow Saintee, Nick Dasovic.

Vancouver Whitecaps Old Crest
As it turned out they fell in the play-offs, which was the same story in 2005. The Whitecaps Women though did lift the 2004 USL Women's Championship.

2006 though was the year that all Whitecaps fans were waiting for, delivering the USL First Division Championship to Vancouver, by beating Rochester Raging Rhino's in the Championship final, unfairly played in the Rhino's own stadium.

Not to be outdone, the Whitecaps Women brought home their second Championship that year too.

2007 couldn't see either of the Caps repeat the triumph. The men started well, fell away then managed to recover just in time to make the play offs, losing out early on.

The season finished with a big showcase game in November though, when David Beckham and his LA Galaxy side came to town and the whole city of Vancouver went football crazy, football mad for a few days. A crowd of 48,172 packed into BC Place to see a pretty dull 0-0 draw, but the Whitecaps missed a first half penalty that could have seen them record a famous victory.

Will the Caps capitalise on this huge interest in the sport in the city? They've just appointed a new head coach in Icelander Teitur Thordarson. It'll be an interesting season in 2008.

Vancouver Whitecaps Old Crest
The team are still awaiting planning permission to be granted for a new 15,000 all seated stadium in the old Waterfront area of the town. The building of the stadium seems to be being met with endless delays but is the key to the Caps gaining MSL status, which now looks unlikely to happen before 2011.

AFTN will continue to bring you regular updates on the Caps fortunes, as well as continuing to run our successful Whitecaps Prediction League which has now run for three seasons.

So all that's left to say, is Go Whitecaps Go! And watch this space……

For Part Two of our article click HERE!



And in the meantime, find out more about the Whitecaps by clicking into their official website HERE!