Whitecaps adjust to home in Portland
There will be Vancouver Whitecaps FC content on the video board and sounds familiar to Whitecaps players pumped through the Providence Park loudspeakers.
But, as far as Vancouver coach Marc Dos Santos is concerned, Sunday's 7 p.m match against the Portland Timbers is a road fixture for the side from British Columbia.
"Right now, it's 100% an away game," Dos Santos said.
Portland and Providence Park are the home away from home for Whitecaps FC for the remainder of the 2020 MLS season. Because of travel restrictions between the United States and Canada, the three Canadian MLS clubs have relocated to the Lower 48.
Sunday's match, like all of the Timbers and Thorns games until further notice, will be played without fans. For Portland fans watching on Root Sports, it likely will look like a normal home match. Whitecaps fans watching in Canada will see Whitecaps FC virtual advertising signage.
"Do you really think this is a home game?" Dos Santos asked. "At the end of the day, when you're on their field, in their stadium playing against them, even without fans it's not a home game."
It is the first of seven scheduled matches at Providence Park for the Whitecaps, who will be the home side in six of those.
The Whitecaps will have their own locker room at Providence Park — they will not use the Timbers' rooms — with a third locker room for visiting teams.
Dos Santos said the last thing on his mind was changing rooms or signage as he prepares his team for Sunday's match. Vancouver is 5-8-0 (15 points) and sits ninth in the Western Conference. The Whitecaps had won two in a row before a 6-0 loss Wednesday at LAFC.
The "visiting" Timbers should be a confident club coming off Wednesday's 1-0 win over Seattle, Portland's first shutout since a March 8 (preshutdown) win over Nashville SC. The Timbers are 6-4-3 (21 points). Portland entered the weekend second in the tight West standings, and tied on points with first-place Seattle.
Dos Santos said he has some affection for the city of Portland, adding that the club is focused on player safety and health while here. He is glad his team is stationed close enough to British Columbia that players or staff can get home quickly if any family emergencies arise.
The coach is complimentary of the facilities at the University of Portland, where the Whitecaps are training for the next couple of months, particularly the quality of the fields.
"The University of Portland is a top-notch facility," he said.
Dos Santos said the three preseason matches the Whitecaps played in February at Providence Park make it a more familiar environment than any other stadium that is not BC Place. He said his club is being treated well in Portland, where the team's hotel has hung banners from Whitecaps' supporters.
Dos Santos said Providence Park might begin to feel more like home turf as his team plays more games, and perhaps trains a few times at the stadium. He said it might feel 60% like a normal home field for matches against teams other than the Timbers.
Vancouver is scheduled to play as the home team at Providence Park against Real Salt Lake, Los Angeles FC, San Jose, Seattle and the LA Galaxy.
"It's not our home. It will never be home," Dos Santos said. But the coach added that he is satisfied with efforts to make Portland as close to a home environment as possible under the circumstances.
Noting that 2020 has been "a year of a lot of challenges," Dos Santos said that the way to cope is to treat those challenges as "a huge experience in your life."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.