Gbeke gives Caps a boost - The Province

Marc Weber

Late goal from journeyman salvages 1-1 draw with Battery

Three league games into his fourth stint with the Vancouver Whitecaps, this go-around for Charles Gbeke is already more meaningful than all the others combined.

Gbeke's diving header in the 81st minute salvaged a 1-1 draw against the league-leading Charleston

Battery at Swangard Stadium on Wednesday night.

The 30-year-old Ivory Coast native had stints with the club in 1998, 2001 and 2003, but never scored in a league game. In fact, said midfielder Alfredo Valente, Gbeke's previous highlight was from practice.

"I rememeber Charles kicking a ball from our 18-yard box on to Boundary Road," said Valente, who had the ball a ton in the second half and turned the game around with his darting runs and precision crosses, including the game-tying assist.

"He played centreback for us one year. I think he still holds the record for an 86er/Whitecap to kick the ball farthest out of the stadium."

Struggling to score goals, the Caps traded for Gbeke on July 7, sending midfielder Tony Donatelli and cash Montreal's way.

Gbeke led the Impact with 10 goals last season, but had fallen down Montreal's depth chart this campaign and had only one goal in 12 games.

He almost added a second Wednesday, first in the 83rd minute when he turned and misfired from close range after another Valente cross, still forcing a diving save from Dusty Hudock. Gbeke had another chance in injury time.

"When you don't score ... it's been a while -- I wanted it bad," he said. "I wanted to try and help the team. The coach trusts in me; he wants me here."

For a long time, it looked like the Battery (9-4-4) weren't going to need much artillery. Their biggest gun -- forward Randi Patterson -- fired early, heading in his league-leading eighth goal of the season 18 minutes in, and all was relatively quiet on the Western Front after that.

Before that, too.

The Whitecaps (7-4-4) showed a surprising lack of gusto and gumption for a team that was recently granted a five-day break by head coach Teitur Thordarson and one whose last win at home came on June 7. They are now 0-2-3 since then.

"For some reason, we had a poor first half," said Thordarson. "Basically nothing happened. We absolutely did not take the initiaitve in the game."

Charleston picked on right back Luca Bellisomo early and often. The 21-year-old former SFU Clan star was making his first career start -- and appearance -- being called into action after a hamstring injury sidelined Lyle Martin.

"I think they saw that maybe I was a little nervous, so they started playing my side," Bellisimo said. "But it's good for me to put me under pressure and make me learn faster."

© The Vancouver Province 2008