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Whitecaps announce opener against Impact, signing of Korean defender Lee

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The Vancouver Whitecaps will face their fiercest Canadian rival on opening day; the question is, how many Canadians will actually be on the field?

The Whitecaps announced Tuesday that they will host the Montreal Impact for the March 10 MLS First Kick at B.C. Place. And, as expected, the club also announced the signing of South Korean veteran defender Young-Pyo Lee.

The Impact and the Whitecaps have a long, bitter rivalry that runs through the Nutrilite Canadian Championship and years of Div.-2 play. But, in those games, there was always plenty of Canadian content on the field. Will it be so on March 10?

So far, of the 19 players the Impact has signed, none are Canadian. The Whitecaps have Generation Adidas youngsters Bryce Alderson and Russell Teibert, as well as Philippe Davies, on the roster. But, none of those or what you’d call a good bet — at least now —to be a starter for First Kick 2012.

The Whitecaps and Impact will play at 3 p.m. PT, 6 p.m. ET. Four hours after the Impact-Whitecaps match kicks off, the Montreal Canadiens visit B.C. Place. While the second half of the soccer game, which will be shown on TSN and RDS, will conflict with the first half of Hockey Night in Canada, it should end well in time for fans who want to do the double-dip to get out of B.C. Place and head to the Rogers Arena.

Because Montreal comes to Vancouver, in the new unbalanced MLS schedule, Vancouver is guaranteed not to go to Montreal till the 2013 season, unless the two teams were to meet in the Canadian Championship final, which sources say will be getting a new brand name in 2013. Vancouver is slated to meet FC Edmonton in the first round, while Montreal is to face Toronto FC.

Lee has played in three World Cups — including South Korea’s magical and controversial run to the 2002 semifinals. He is third all-time when it comes to caps for his senior national side.

After the 2002 World Cup, Lee played three seasons with PSV Eindhoven, making 109 appearances and playing a key role in the squad that made it to the semifinals of the Champions League in 2005. He then made 93 appearances over three years for Tottenham, spent a year at Borussia Dortmund and has spent the last couple of years in lucrative Saudi Arabia.

“Lee is a quality individual and leader — both on and off the pitch — that has excelled at all levels of the game and we are thrilled he will be joining our club,” said Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie in a release. “He has played midfield, as well as fullback during his distinguished career and the addition of Lee as a right back to our side will help strengthen our defensive backline.”

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