A chance to shine - Vancouver Sun

John Atkinson

Recent Caps signing aims at first start
 
Recent signing Wesley Charles is hoping to start his first USL-1 game for the Vancouver Whitecaps men tonight at Swangard Stadium and help secure a notable double over table-toppers Charleston Battery, whom they beat in South Carolina two months ago.

The powerfully built 6-3 central defender made his debut in a 1-1 tie with Carolina RailHawks 10 days ago, coming on as a substitute for the last 15 minutes and impressing at the heart of the Whitecaps' defence.

Now, with Omar Jarun battling to recover from a hip flexor problem and Adrian Cann relocated to Denmark, the 32-year-old St. Vincent and Grenadines international is poised to link up again with captain Jeff Clarke, whom he trained alongside Tuesday at SFU.

Having plied his trade in Ireland for the last decade, Charles has swapped one spectacular location for another; perhaps one of the reasons it hasn't taken him long to settle in.

"I came when they [the players] had a break, so that has given me time to relax and acclimatize," he said. "And everyone has been very welcoming. I've enjoyed training with the guys all week and now I'm just looking forward to the game."

Goals from Jason Jordan and Nick Addlery earned Vancouver a prized 2-0 win at Charleston's Blackbaud Stadium on May 28; the Battery's first home defeat in 2008 and the first time in history the Whitecaps have won there.

But the Battery are currently three points clear at the top of USL-1 -- six ahead of Vancouver -- and skipper Clarke, who netted the winner in a hard-fought encounter at Swangard last August, knows tonight's game will likewise be a tight, tough affair.

"They are a good side with a lot of attacking players and a great 'keeper -- one of the best in the league," Clarke said. "In fact, they're solid from front to back and won't give us anything easy. We'll have to play our best."

Head coach Teitur Thordarson allowed his players to recharge their batteries during a five-day break last week.

The rest came ahead of a tough spell of upcoming games: Six in two weeks, including four on the road on the U.S. east coast.

The recharger was apparently on the blink for some of them, though, as Thordarson is definitely without full-back Lyle Martin (strained hamstring) and has concerns over Jarun (hip flexor), Justin Moose (groin), Vicente Arze (ankle) and Takashi Hirano (ankle).

However, the Icelandic coach is still confident his side can earn a first USL-1 win in five games -- and finish the first half of the 2008 league season on a high.

"It was a huge win for us [at Charleston] in May and gave us a lot of confidence," he said. "They have a lot of individual qualities, but also perform well as a team, so will be a very tough opponent for us."

And of his side's recent lack of goals, Thordarson added: "We are practising our finishing every week and are playing well -- so it's only a matter of time before we start scoring more."

© The Vancouver Sun 2008