The Red Bulls head to British Columbia to begin their Supporters Shield defense with a match against the Whitecaps and rookie head coach Carl Robinson.Saturday's season opener for the Vancouver Whitecaps and New York Red Bulls represents a sense of beginning for both sides.
For the host Whitecaps, it's the start of the Carl Robinson era. The Welshman will helm his first match as a head coach against the team that he last played professionally for, and he'll do so as the leader of a revamped Vancouver side that has gained a noticeable Latin influence.
For the Red Bulls, Saturday's match is the first time the team will be known as a defending regular-season champion. Last year's Supporters Shield winners will be hoping to take that on a step further this season in what is likely to be Thierry Henry's final season as a pro.
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However, New York will almost certainly be without the Frenchman's services, as he continues his personal stance against playing on most of the artificial turf surfaces in MLS. His absence will be a big blow to a Red Bulls offense that instead looks to a travel-weary Tim Cahill to provide some quality in attack.
On the other end of the field, the home side shouldn't have any major absences, but much of the team is still in the 'getting to know you' phase and will need to gel quickly against a savvy New York squad. The Whitecaps will be officially ushering in the post-Camilo era with a host of new bodies looking to fill the void caused by the Brazilian's sudden departure over the offseason.
How quickly Robinson can get his side playing cohesively is not only a major talking point for this match, but for the entire season.
The clubs will open their season Saturday afternoon on the West Coast, with the game slated to kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET at BC Place in Vancouver.