Monday, February 8, 2010

The fixtures for the 2010 season finally came out for the Vancouver Whitecaps today. In their last season in the "lower level" of the USL/NASL, it's the usual ragtag batch of fixtures, with some highpoints, some low points and some scratching your head at points ahead.

One of the big complaints from fans about the USL (and one of the reasons many were happy to see the NASL breakaway league formed) was their ridiculous fixture scheduling. Despite this being the Caps final season with a senior team USL connection, it wouldn't be the same if we weren't left unhappy about the fixtures laid out for the season ahead.

The Caps thirty fixture season kicks off at home to new boys NSC Minnesota Stars on April 11th and winds up with what is sure to be an explosive encounter against Portland Timbers on October 2nd.

Vancouver's home games will see them have ten weekend fixtures, split evenly between Saturday and Sunday matches, two games on a Wednesday, two on a Thursday and just one Friday night match.

The latter is particularly disappointing, as the Friday night matches in recent seasons have had some of the best atmospheres and I know were a particular favourite choice for myself.

Kick off times have yet to be confirmed, but hopefully we won't have too many kid friendly and atmosphere sapping afternoon Sunday kick offs.

Looking at Vancouver's fixtures as a whole, a lot of the horrendous aspects of previous USL campaigns have gone. There are no more back to back or two games in three days scenarios that blighted the fixture lists of the past and for that not only the fans, but the players, will be truly happy. There are a few two games in four days situations but that's no different to leagues elsewhere in the world.

Some other disappointing aspects of the fixtures are no home games for a month between June 9th and July 8th, failing to cash in on the football buzz that will hit the city during the World Cup. Five away games fill that void instead.

The Southsiders had been hoping for a weekend trip over the water to Victoria on May 8th to see the Caps PDL side take on the Highlanders. Those plans have unfortunately been scuppered by the senior side taking on Crystal Palace Baltimore (yes, that's their real name!) at home that night instead. With the USL having fingers in both League's pies, you'd think they might take such matters into account in an attempt to grow the game and the rivalry between the two sides (Vancouver will most likely be keeping a PDL side even after they join the MLS).

The Portland Timbers games were the ones I was most looking forward to seeing on the calendar. With it being the only realistic away trips possible in the season, a Thursday night game and the Saturday before the July 4th festivities in the States, with all the traffic and border problems that that entails, was not quite what was hoped for, but I'm looking forward to returning down there to wonderful atmosphere at PGE Park.

The end of season contest between the Caps and Timbers at Swangard, with the Cascadia Cup possibly at stake, is a cracking way to end the regular season and set up the three weeks of play off football thereafter.

Despite all the moans, at least it's exciting that the fixtures are out now and as someone pointed out, at least we have a season to watch now after all the wrangling.

No matter all the good and bad points of it all, the only thing that matters is that kick off is only 62 days away and I for one can't wait for it all to get underway.

C'mon the Caps!

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