BURNABY, B.C. – Michael Nanchoff may or may not make his season debut for the Vancouver Whitecaps this weekend, but one thing is certain: There’ll be a party.
It may take two-and-a-half hours for friends and family to make the drive from Nanchoff’s hometown of North Royalton, Ohio, to Columbus, but it’s a trek worth making. Just look a the numbers – more than 500 tickets have been claimed by “Team Nanchoff” for Vancouver’s match against the Crew this Saturday (7:30 pm ET; watch LIVE online).
The player’s own supporters club showed up 200 strong, T-shirts and all, last season, but now his backers are ready to up their game even further.
From a tailgate party and “a couple of DJs” to the serving of ćevapi, a Serbian sausage, the festivities surrounding Nanchoff’s return make Saturday’s match the must-attend event for the in crowd in the Columbus area.
Vancouver’s most prominent supporters club is adding its voice as well.
“One of my friends started getting e-mails from one of the Southsiders about some of the chants,” Nanchoff told MLSsoccer.com after training at Swangard Stadium on Tuesday. “So I think they’re going to implement some of them during the game. Hopefully it’ll be pretty cool. We’ll see. Hopefully it’s nothing embarrassing! We’ll find out.”
While there’s no guarantee Nanchoff will take part as he recovers from a heel injury suffered against Sporting Kansas City during preseason on February 29, he will travel after participating in full training sessions for more than a week and said he'll do his best to give head coach Martin Rennie a decision to make.
“Right now I’m doing everything I can,” Nanchoff said. “I don’t know if I want to put a percentage mark on it in terms of chances, but I feel good, and I’m pushing as hard as I can there in that spot, so we’ll see.”
Caleb Clarke, an 18-year-old striker who has played with the Whitecaps Residency program for two-and-a-half years, is now a member of the club’s Major League Soccer roster. That brings the amount of players on the roster to 29 out of a possible 30, with that final spot scheduled to be filled by Designated Player Barry Robson in early July.
Residency technical director Richard Grootscholten is leaving the club to pursue other opportunities, with this Friday scheduled as his last day. The Dutchman stepped into that role in November 2010 and has seen Russell Teibert, Brian Sylvestre, Bryce Alderson and now Clarke ascend to the full MLS roster from the Residency program during his tenure. Grootscholten will act as an advisor during the transition period as the club seeks his successor.
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.