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Whitecaps hope continuity gives them advantage

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Omar Salgado, left, and Jay DeMerit work out at Empire Field Friday.
Jay Nolly will start his first game in MLS since 2007, when he goes between the sticks for the Vancouver Whitecaps for Saturday’s season opener against Toronto FC.

Like a lot of players on expansion clubs — no matter what the league — Nolly told media Friday at Empire Field that the Whitecaps can exceed the low expectations placed upon them by the pundits. After all, in MLS, there is a history of expansion teams walking into a league with a low salary cap and high roster turnovers and winning. Chicago won it all in an expansion season. The Seattle Sounders have been to the playoffs each of their first two years in the league, and have two U.S. Open Cups.

Nolly believes the Whitecaps will benefit from consistency.

“We’ve brought, 10, 11, 15 guys from last year along,” said Nolly.

And to those that pan the Whitecaps for promoting a bunch of Division-2 players, he notes that a lot of the players the team brought in came to B.C. with the intent of playing in MLS, not in the USL or NASL. They came early to acclimatize themselves with the franchise, but wanted to be first-division players.

“A lot of players came here for MLS,” Nolly said. And the fact that a lot of those players, like Swiss midfielder Davide Chiumiento, came early rather than simply show up for training camp, will help the team.

“I think it has helped guys get settled, especially the guys coming over from Europe.”

And that includes Nolly, who spent time with Real Salt Lake and D.C. United before coming to Vancouver.

“I’m glad to be back,” he said. “That’s why I came to Vancouver, was building, get experience and become a better keeper.”

But can, Vancouver be the next Seattle?

“I think it depends on the organization,” said Nolly. “Seattle has done really well right from the beginning. They’re the kind of team we are going to try and follow. They have great fans. But Salt Lake, Chivas and Philadelphia all struggled a bit from the beginning.”

Whitecaps coach Teitur Thordarson said the club couldn’t have asked for a bigger game than to open against Toronto. And, after a winter and full preseason of preparations, he doesn’t think the club has left any stone unturned when it comes to being ready for the season.

“If you prepare well, you have no regrets, at least.”

And captain Jay Demerit is hopeful that the atmosphere Saturday will follow what has been a great leadup over the last six weeks. The Whitecaps have become media darlings in the city. The club is opening up 1,500 more seats at Empire Field for Saturday’s opener, but tickets were still available Friday.

“This is something that is special, it’s something we can embrace,”he said.

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