VANCOUVER – Less than 24 hours after the Vancouver Whitecaps lost their first ever MLS home playoff game, midfielder Russell Teibert was back at BC Place—though he was wearing red rather than his usual blue and white.
“It was kind of too soon to be here,” he said a few days later, explaining why, after the Portland Timbers defeated the Whitecaps 2–0, it stung a little bit to return to the site of that loss the next day.
“There was a lot of emotion. We had 27,000-some-odd people supporting us, and I know the team feels we let them down. They supported us all year long, and they came in numbers to be our 12th man.”
Teibert’s teammate, defender Sam Adekugbe, shared his sentiment. “It was a bit too early,” he said, either wincing or smiling—it’s difficult to tell.
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The day after the Whitecaps were ousted from the playoffs, BC Place became a temporary home for the Canadian men’s team, who are training here this week in preparation for their Friday matchup with Honduras, part of the next stage of FIFA World Cup qualifying.
But as much as returning to BC Place was a reminder that an otherwise successful year for the Whitecaps—who were crowned Voyageurs Cup champions in August—had ended in disappointment, there’s a unique upside for Teibert, Adekugbe and midfielder Kianz Froese, the three Whitecaps who are part of the national squad: the chance to erase some of the bitterness from the end of their MLS season.
Teibert knows that a good result for Canada would take his mind off the MLS playoffs—and that even the chance to play on Friday would do him wonders.
“The positive thing is that I’m able to get back on the field and try and forget about it,” said Teibert, who has 17 caps for Canada. “The way you forget about games is just to play another one.”
“It’s a disappointing time,” said Adekugbe, who has two caps. “But we are looking forward to the game on Friday. It’s a way of rebounding back from a tough loss, so hopefully we can follow it with a win with the national team.”
It says a lot about the strength of the Whitecaps’ development program that Vancouver have three players named to the squad; no Canadian MLS team is better-represented (Toronto FC have none, while Montreal Impact’s Wandrille Lefèvre is the lone member of his club on the roster).
“It’s a credit to the Whitecaps,” said 19-year-old Froese, talking about his path from Vancouver’s residency program, which he joined in 2012, to the senior men’s team.
Froese hadn’t really expected he’d be named to this Canadian team.
“I think throughout the year I’ve kind of learned to not necessarily expect things,” said Froese, who has one cap. “So when I got asked to be a part of the team I was obviously excited.”
Adekugbe, 20, and Teibert, 22, also came up through the Whitecaps residency program. Adekugbe joined in 2011, while Teibert joined when he was 15, back before the team was a part of MLS.
“I’ve played with Kianz since I was 16, coming up from the academy, so it’s good that we’re all coming up together,” said Adekugbe, adding that “in the foreseeable future it’s exciting times ahead.”
Teibert, meanwhile, believes that a sense of camaraderie can have an effect on the pitch. He and Adekugbe room together with the Whitecaps; they’re roommates once again with the men’s team.
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“I think because you know each other so well off the field it translates on the field,” Teibert offered.
For these homegrown players, the opportunity to represent Canada in the city where they’re used to playing is meaningful—and not just because they feel like they have something to prove.
“Vancouver has become my home,” Teibert said. “I want to play in front of the Vancouver fans. I’ve always enjoyed playing in front of them with the Whitecaps and it would be nice to play in front of them with Canada.”
Adekugbe, meanwhile, is excited about the prospect of showcasing both the city and the stadium the Whitecaps call home.
“Hopefully the fans will be as loud as possible,” Adekugbe said. “It’s an exciting time. I’m just happy to be a part of the program, and hopefully get some minutes to play in front of our fans.”