It's that time of year again. The days are getting longer, the sun has been is shining, plants are coming into bloom, and Vancouver Whitecaps FC have won another preseason tournament. Opening Day will soon be upon us. On Monday, the Whitecaps held their annual Season Launch Party at the Commodore Ballroom.
Steven Beitashour wasn't able to attend, as he is currently in Washington helping the Players Union to negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the owners. Deybi Flores was absent as well, most likely due to a visa issue. And while Pa Modou Kah was there from the beginning, greeting the people as they walked in, he had to leave early.
The rest of the Whitecaps, as well as several members of the second team, were to meet and greet the thousand or so season ticket holders who showed up to support the Cascadia Cup holders, and BC Children's Hospital through the $5 tickets.
The event included speeches by ambassador Carl Valentine, senior squad manager Carl Robinson, second team manager Alan Koch, and President Bob Lenarduzzi.
As is often the case with these events, the Whitecaps had a new kit to unveil. Football is a business after all. Following in the fine tradition of John Thorrington and Pete Schaad, Russell Teibert mastered the ceremonies, and few of his teammates were spared from his rapier-like wit.
The players showed off their snazzy new kits that feature the new Major League crest on both sleeves, replacing the Canadian flag on previous editions. The kit, Vancouver's sixth since entering the league, has a blue rimmed crew neck collar, and various shades of peaks in blue that fade down from the Adidas stripes on the front, becoming the traditional white of Vancouver's primary kits.
The crest also features a pattern of miniaturised diamonds similar to their current away kit, as well as the one from their inaugural season.
These events are usually a time for celebration. And there is much to celebrate. After years of trying, the Whitecaps finally qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League last year.
There are still twelve spots up for grabs, and the draw has yet to take place, but BC Place could find itself welcoming clubs such as Deportivo Saprissa, Isidro Metapán, Club América, Comunicaciones, or even Omar Salgado's Tigres.
With another Cascadia Cup victory this year, the Whitecaps have the chance to equal the combined wins by Portland and Seattle, which no doubt would send a shiver down the spines of our neighbours to the south.
The Caps have what looks like an easy route to the final of the CSA Cup, as they are set to face the winner of FC Edmonton and Ottawa Fury FC. The Caps have a perfect 6-0-0 record against the Rabbits, while the Fury have never made it out of the qualifying round.
In the league, there are two new clubs, New York City FC and Orlando City SC. With the hiatus of CD Chivas, now known as Los Angeles FC, Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo switched over to the Western Conference.
The Caps have a new Young Designated Player in Uruguayan centre forward Octavio Rivero. He is joined by his fellow countryman and centre back Diego Rodríguez, Norwegian centre back Pa Modou Kah, Honduran midfielder Dybi Flores, and a pair of homegrown midfield talents in Marco Bustos and Ben McKendry.
There is a brand new team in Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2, which will call Thunderbird Stadium its home, and be overseen by Alan Koch, the man who masterminded the NCAA powerhouse Simon Fraser Clan.
And yet, all of this hope and belief could be put on hold. Right now, there is no Collective Bargaining Agreement in place, and until there is, a cloud will hang over the Caps and the rest of the league.
But we do not fear clouds. We embrace them. We are the Rain City after all. And we know that every cloud has a silver lining.
Whether it begins this Saturday against Toronto FC or at some later date, 2015 is going to be a great year for the Whitecaps. This is by far the single most talented squad that the Whitecaps have assembled since the days of Alan Ball, Bobby Lenarduzzi, Carl Valentine, and Trevor Whymark.
The Caps have looked good in the preseason, on the training ground, and in their new kits. And on March 7th at 3:00 PM PST, we'll get to see how they look on Opening Day... or not. But in the meantime, here's a gallery from training at Musqueam Turf.