VANCOUVER, B.C. -- History will be made when the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps FC host Toronto FC to open both teams' 2011 Major League Soccer seasons on Saturday at Empire Field.
Not only will it be the Whitecaps first game in MLS, but it will be the first MLS regular season game between two Canadian clubs.
"We're very excited to welcome our fans to Empire Field, as we kick off our inaugural season in Major League Soccer," Vancouver chief executive officer Paul Barber told his club's website. "We look forward to seeing a sea of white and hearing the chants and cheers that will make Empire Field an intimidating environment for all opponents."
How either team comes out of the gate will be a bit of a mystery, with Vancouver obviously starting from scratch at the MLS level, and TFC doing pretty much the same after much of the front office and roster were remade this offseason.
TFC enters its fifth season in MLS with its sixth head coach. Retired Dutch midfielder Aron Winter takes on that role as well as that of technical director after three years as an assistant at Eredivisie side Ajax. Winter brought Bob de Klerk from Ajax to be his top assistant on the field, hoping to revamp the team's playing style and development system.
"We want to play attractive soccer," Winter told The Sports Network. "We want to dominate and play well because soccer has to be an entertainment. You have to play attractive but also with results. We are working with a salary cap, so you have to be creative. You can't buy all good players. You have to be creative, and you have to develop them."
TFC's players to watch will be Dwayne De Rosario and Julien De Guzman, if he plays. De Rosario could be the key to Winter's attack-oriented system while designated player De Guzman should make more of an impact than previous seasons because of Winter's desire for him to see more of the ball. De Guzman is listed as questionable for the opener, however, because of offseason knee surgery.
Vancouver's players to watch will be designated player Eric Hassli and defender Jay DeMerit.
"MLS is a very physical league, it's an athletic league and it's also good having a presence in the box," Soehn told the club's website of Hassli. "He's a big target. What I like most about Eric is his ability to really hold the ball and distribute. He's got pretty special feet for a big man."
U.S. international DeMerit will be in charge of keeping not only the backline, but the entire team's confidence and shape in tact with of his experience and leadership qualities.