Steve Nash, the two-time NBA most valuable player, not only dazzled members of the news media with his soccer skills in a game against the media yesterday morning, he also confirmed his intention to bring a Major League Soccer franchise to Vancouver.
The Vancouver Whitecaps have scheduled a news conference for this morning in Vancouver. A news release said the team "will be making a major announcement about the future of soccer in Vancouver and British Columbia."
"I'm just excited that I am part of a partnership group to bring MLS soccer to Vancouver," Nash said after the MLS All-Star Media Cup at BMO Field. "I think it is an outstanding soccer area and has a great tradition dating back to the Whitecaps of the [North American Soccer League]and all of the support that they drew. I grew up a fan of the Whitecaps and am still a big fan today, especially with my brother [Martin]playing for them now."
The Phoenix Suns' point guard, the NBA's MVP in 2005 and 2006, is teaming up with Greg Kerfoot, the owner of the Whitecaps, to try to move to the MLS as early as 2011.
Nash was born in South Africa, but grew up in Vancouver and Victoria. He was an avid soccer and basketball player growing up and frequently plays in charity soccer matches.
MLS commissioner Don Garber met with the league's board of directors yesterday in Toronto to solidify plans for expansion. The league has 14 clubs and will add teams in Seattle in 2009 and Philadelphia in 2010. Garber announced yesterday that the league approved expansion by two more teams by 2011.
An ownership group consisting of Montreal Impact owner Joey Saputo and Montreal Canadiens owner George Gillett Jr. is also bidding for an MLS franchise in Montreal.
The Whitecaps and Impact play in the 11-team United Soccer Leagues First Division.
Nash said he believes Vancouver will support an MLS team.
"Vancouver is a great soccer community," he said. "There is a terrific rivalry with Seattle, which will also be joining the MLS, and then there is the Canadian rivalry with Toronto FC and the ownership group in Montreal who are also interested. We could have the whole country picking sides and I think that would be great for soccer in Canada."
Nash put his brilliant soccer skills on display yesterday, guiding his team to the championship match while scoring six goals and dominating play in the midfield and attack.
"He's pretty amazing," said Alexi Lalas, a former defender for the U.S. World Cup team and the current general manager of the Los Angeles Galaxy of MLS. He lined up against Nash in one of the five 15-minute matches.
"When they talk about natural-born athletes and stuff like that, I fully believe whatever sport he tried, he would be good at," Lalas said of Nash. "He just has an incredible ability to understand movements and rhythm, and everything he does on the basketball court seems to convert to the soccer field. He could have been a professional in any sport."
One of Nash's teammates was former Canadian international and West Ham United goalkeeper Craig Forrest. He also raved about the 6-foot-3 point guard's soccer skills.
"I think our game plan worked - get him to tire everyone out because he is so fit and as the game goes on just let him dribble the ball forward," Forrest said. "We saw him in the NBA all-star game slam dunk competition using his feet and how amazing that was. He loves the game and has some technical ability, so it was incredible having him out here."