Print Edition: August 21, 2012
This wasn’t my first Whitecaps game, but as I approached the stadium on August 15, I knew that there was something special about this one. People squished in from all sides to get a view of the drum line that was performing in front of Gate A. I noticed more people and more excitement bubbled through the air as I navigated through the crowds. Once in my seat, I settled in to watch the players warm up as the clock crept closer to game time.
Then the reason for all the excitement presented itself as the drum line marched onto the field in crisp Whitecap white and lined themselves up between the 20 and 30 yard lines. A Whitecaps banner was unrolled across the center of the field, and flags were paraded all around it. The final spectacle was fireworks being sent into the air and a raucous “Caps” chant. But it wasn’t until Sophie Schmidt, Karina LeBlanc and Emily Zurrer walked onto the field sporting their newly acquired bronze medals that the fans really erupted. So much support was pouring onto the field for the local Olympians that the soccer game didn’t start until 15 minutes after seven.
Action started right away when the Whitecaps made a corner attempt and caused a jumble in front of the net, but no goal resulted. Fans waved their hands over the pitch as Joe Canon lined up next to the post for a goal kick. The “Ssssssss” hushed the stands and the “Boom” shuddered around the stadium as he unloaded the ball down the field. Dallas was awarded a corner kick in the Southsider’s corner and was subject to an onslaught of intimidating jeers. Players and fans alike were geared up and hoping to capitalize on their weekend defeat over Real Salt Lake by putting Dallas away early. Unfortunately Dallas, and the referee, had different plans. The free kicks seemed heavily weighted towards Dallas at the end of the first half (at least to this fan’s eye), and at the 34-minute mark the first yellow card was handed out to Martin Bonjour. The half ended scoreless and with two yellow cards for the ‘Caps (another one handed out just before the whistle).
The second half proved to be just as frustrating, with a Whitecap free kick attempt being punched away by Dallas’ keeper Kevin Hartman. At the hour mark Dallas was finally able to put one past Joe Canon. Ten minutes later they did it again, and the Whitecaps were looking at a 2-0 deficit. The offence needed to step it up to turn the score around, but through-balls and crosses were repeatedly going uncollected and being turned over to the Dallas defence. An uplifting rush into the 18-yard box at the 78 minute mark had fans leaning forward in their seats as Hartman was forced to make two sequential diving saves to shut down the offensive push. The match seemed to be setting itself up for an exciting end until a tackle caused a brawl reminiscent of a good hockey fight. It is debatable whether the piercing whistle from the referree or the droning chant from the Southsider’s corner was louder. After five minutes of extra time, the game ended with two goals and two yellow cards for Dallas and five yellow cards for the ‘Caps.
Perhaps this would have been an upsetting way to end an evening – that is, if I hadn’t gotten the opportunity to intercept Sophie Schmidt on her way back from a radio interview with TSN. The Abbotsford-native-turned-national-inspiration was happy to offer some words of advice to this year’s varsity footballers:
“Hey UFV Cascades, it’s Sophie Schmidt here. Just wanted to wish you all the best in your upcoming seasons. It took a crazy amount of work to get this bronze medal around my neck and I’m sure that you guys can achieve anything if you want it bad enough. So, don’t leave anything behind and do your best. Take care.”