The third leg of Palace’s pre-season tour will see them head to Canada for the first time ever to take on Vancouver Whitecaps. Ahead of the game we fill you in on everything you need to know about our final opponents of the trip.
One of the most famous names in North American soccer, there has been a team operating under the Whitecaps banner since 1974 when they were a member of the previous incarnation of the NASL, which they won in 1979. When the league folded in 1984 so did the Whitecaps, but they would eventually reform to play in the Canadian Soccer League, the American Professional Soccer League and the USL A-League.
In 2009 they were handed a franchise spot in MLS for the 2011 season and have gradually improved season on season. In their five campaigns they have reached the MLS play-offs three times, with their best effort coming last term as they went one better than their first-round eliminations in 2012 and 2014.
The Whitecaps play in BC Place which was the home of the original side back in the 1980s. Originally opened in 1983, it underwent extensive renovation work between 2009 and 2011 which saw the replacement of its inflatable roof with a retractable one. The new Whitecaps franchise moved in in 2011 and can cater for 22,000 fans for MLS games.
Former Wales international midfielder Carl Robinson took charge in 2013 which is his first managerial job. He began at Wolves and also had permanent stints at Sunderland and Norwich City before switching to the MLS with Toronto and the New York Red Bulls. He won 52 caps for his country over a 10-year period.
5. LAST SEASON
Robinson steered his team to their best ever finish in the Western Conference as they finished second to reach the MLS Cup play-offs but were defeated in the semi-finals to eventual winners Portland Timbers. They did however win their first Canadian Championship under their new guise but were knocked out of the CONCACAF Champions League after finishing bottom of their group.
6. THIS SEASON
Once again Vancouver are among the contenders for a play-off spot as they sit fifth in the Western Conference at the halfway mark with eight wins and five draws from 21 matches. However a last-minute goal for Toronto FC saw them clinch the Canadian Championship on away goals after the sides drew 2-2 on aggregate.
7. CURRENT CROP
Captain Pedro Morales is one of Vancouver’s star men, having been at the club since 2014 and currently leads their scoring charts with seven goals, two ahead of summer singing Christian Bolanos who played for Costa Rica in the 2014 World Cup. Left-back Jordan Harvey has made more MLS appearances for the Whitecaps than anyone in their history.
8. FAMOUS FACES
Previous incarnations of the club saw Alan Ball, Johnny Giles and Peter Beardsley play in Canada, whereas the MLS version has seen Kenny Miller and Robert Earnshaw play up front in recent seasons, whereas former Watford man Jay DeMerit was captain between 2011 and 2014 and Nigel Reo-Coker played there for two seasons.
9. PALACE LINKS
Robinson played alongside Joe Ledley and Wayne Hennessey towards the end of his Wales career, and the pair actually featured when he won his last cap against Finland in March 2009.
10. FUN FACT
Canadian basketball legend Steve Nash is a co-owner of the Whitecaps and a huge football fan. A Tottenham Hotspur supporter, he has participated in pre-season training camps with the New York Red Bulls and Inter Milan, and sometimes attends training sessions put on by the team he owns.