New style, similar results for Whitecaps - The Vancouver Sun

Iain Macintyre
Vancouver Sun

There is nothing wrong with coach Teitur Thordarson's soccer team that the player Teitur Thordarson couldn't have fixed.

Unfortunately, the Vancouver Whitecaps missed his playing peak by a quarter-century.

In his best season, Thordarson scored 19 goals for Lens in the French First Division. The Whitecaps have no striker of that quality, and the United Soccer Leagues team is struggling to finish the chances it is creating under Thordarson's guidance.

The team attacks in a drastically different fashion than it did under previous coach Bob Lilley. But on the scoreboard, the Whitecaps look the same.

Lilley was fired after last season when the Whitecaps produced only 27 goals in 28 games. Under Thordarson, they have two goals in three games. At least each was a game-winner, including Eddie Sebrango's strike in the 76th minute on Saturday when the forward finally got a scoring chance he couldn't miss.

The Whitecaps beat the Rochester Rhinos 1-0 to bump their USL First Division record under Thordarson to 2-1 and give themselves a little momentum for Tuesday's exhibition rematch against David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy in Edmonton.

But it was a game the Whitecaps dominated, and should have had won in the first half-hour when they generated four outstanding scoring chances. They didn't convert any, and it took a lucky ricochet for Sebrango to finally score into an open net late in the game.

Thordarson, the coach, wishes he had Thordarson, the player.

"It looks so," he smiled. "But it will get better. It is [frustrating] a little bit. In periods, we are there. But we are not stable enough. It varies. The guys are still learning how we want to have this. Sometimes we're very good at it, sometimes not so good. But they have done fantastically well so far, and this will only get better and better."

Certainly, the Whitecaps' buildup -- long and to the point -- was effective against the last-place Rhinos.

Rochester goalie Scott Vallow made outstanding saves in the first 13 minutes against Alfredo Valente's curling, right-footed volley and Tony Donatelli's blast from about 14 yards, although the second shot appeared to be aimed right at him.

Sebrango managed to crush the underside of the bar with a point-blank shot in the fifth minute, and at 31 minutes the forward's strong header was cleared off the line.

"We're more direct now," Vancouver midfielder Steve Kindel said. "But we just can't put the ball in the net. A game like tonight, you get two or three early and you break their will and it's a lot easier game. Once you score two or three, six could go in. But we just can't seem to get that early goal.

"We got accused sometimes last year of not attacking enough. I still think a lot of that was due to our finishing. It was a different style, more possession last year. But we were creating chances and things weren't going in."

All the early scoring chances were generated, directly or indirectly, by long balls. Hopefully, as the Whitecaps evolve under Thordarson, the team will better involve its midfielders since Vancouver's greatest advantage Saturday were central players Kindel and Martin Nash -- each capable of winning and distributing balls -- and the play on left wing by Valente.

It was Valente who created the goal, bursting to the net to force a save by Vallow, who watched helplessly as the ball caromed to Sebrango.

"I guess I got rewarded for the chances I had before," Sebrango said. "Very lucky. I was getting frustrated of course."

There was a lot of that going around.

Valente's assist was his 100th point as a Whitecap. In his 11th season, the 27-year-old from Burnaby was often unopposed in midfield against the Rhinos. In Edmonton, he'll likely run into Beckham, the megastar with the richest contract in soccer.

"It's exciting," Valente said. "I had a few years in Edmonton in indoor, so I have some friends back there. It was a honour to play against Beckham once [in November's 0-0 draw at BC Place Stadium] and to play against him twice is going to be a pleasure."

THROW-INS: Attendance at Swangard Stadium was 4,762 ... Shots on goal were 9-0, and corners 12-2 for the Whitecaps, who after the Galaxy game open a two-game USL road trip Friday in Miami.

imacintyre@png.canwest.com

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Whitecaps 1 Rhinos 0

NEXT GAME

Tuesday vs. Los Angeles Galaxy in Edmonton 6 p.m. SHAW

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