After finishing tied with a Major League Soccer worst 28 points in 2011, Vancouver Whitecaps FC have responded in 2012 with a hot start to put them in third place on the Western Conference table. Here's a few things to know about the Crew's third Canadian opponent of 2012 before Saturday's match:
RENNIE SHAKES THINGS UP
In November, Martin Rennie was named as the club's third head coach in less than two seasons. The Scot came to Vancouver following back-to-back NASL regular season titles with the Carolina RailHawks. During his time with the Railhawks, Rennie developed the talents of many current MLS players including current Crew forward Tommy Heinemann, former Black & Gold defender Josh Gardner, and Chicago Fire midfielder Daniel Paladini.
Since joining Whitecaps FC, Rennie has made a number of roster moves. Most notably, Rennie acquired Sebastien Le Toux from Philadelphia to pair with fellow Frenchman Eric Hassli in the attack. Rennie has also signed his own fellow countryman Barry Robson as the club's second designated player. Robson will join Whitecaps FC in June when his contract with Middlesbrough expires this summer.
Vancouver snapped a four match winless streak over the weekend, beating FC Dallas 1-0 at home. The match's lone goal came in the 11th minute from a left-footed howler courtesy of Brazilian forward Camilo. Led by goalkeeper Joe Cannon's five saves, defense was key in the victory as Whitecaps FC's attack only managed two shots on target against Dallas.
Much like Robert Warzycha, Rennie shuffled his lineup over the weekend as he replaced four starters. Rennie inserted Jun Marques Davidson and Matt Watson in to the 'Caps' midfield. The No. 1 overall pick of the 2011 MLS Superdraft Omar Salgado and Camilo joined Le Toux up top in a 4-3-3 to replace Davide Chiumento and Eric Hassli in the attack.
FROM BARTENDING TO THE BACK LINE
Perhaps one of the most interesting stories in all of professional soccer is that of Vancouver captain Jay DeMerit. After going unsigned following his collegiate career at the University of Illinois-Chicago, DeMerit served as a bartneder until traveling overseas to try his luck playing in England in 2003.
DeMerit played two seasons with Southall in England's ninth division, earning roughly $70 per week. The center back then joined seventh division club Northwood where he impressed then-Watford manager Ray Lewington during a preseason friendly enough to earn a trial with the second-tier side. DeMerit hard work paid off, earning a contract with Watord. He spent seven seasons with The Hornets, eventually becoming the team's captain.
DeMerit acheived the dream of every young soccer player, representing his country at the World Cup. The Green Bay, Wisconsin native started all four matches for the Stars and Stripes in South Africa in 2010 before joining Vancouver in 2011 for the club's inaugural season.
You can check out DeMerit's story at the FREE showing of Rise & Shine: The Jay Demerit Story at Capital University on Friday, April 27th at 7:00pm.