Impact acquires midfielder Donatelli - The Gazette

Randy Phillips

'Versatile player'; Fan-favourite Gbeke sent to Whitecaps

There will be a new face in the Impact lineup when the team plays host to the Puerto Rico Islanders at Saputo Stadium on Sunday.

The Impact acquired midfielder Tony Donatelli from the Vancouver Whitecaps Monday in exchange for veteran forward Charles Gbeke and an undisclosed amount of cash.

Donatelli is a 24-year-old native of Glenside, Penn., who had been with the Whitecaps since 2006 and received the team's unsung hero award last season after scoring five goals in 29 games.

"We have acquired an excellent young player in Tony Donatelli," Impact technical director Nick De Santis said. "He's a player who knows the league well and is good technically.

Also, with the amount of money we are getting, it will allow us to sign another forward."

Gbeke, a 30-year-old who was born in the Ivory Coast but called Montreal home, scored a career-high 10 goals in 28 games last season to share top-scorer honours in the United Soccer Leagues First Division with Seattle Sounders forward Sébastien Letoux.

"Charles Gbeke had the opportunity to play with us this season, but forwards Roberto Brown and Severino Jefferson showed great things lately," De Santis said. "Charles is a player who gave us good services, but we had to make a decision."

Donatelli also was instrumental in Vancouver winning the league championship in 2006, scoring three goals and adding an assist in the playoffs. He has only one assist in 10 games (480 minutes played) this season.

John Limniatis, unbeaten (2-0-1) in league play and 4-0-1 overall since taking over the head coaching duties from De Santis, said he was satisfied with the trade and didn't feel dealing away a forward in exchange for a midfielder was a bad move, despite limited choices on attack.

"We are adding to our lineup a versatile player who should fit well with this team," Limniatis said. "Even with Charles Gbeke's departure, we still have depth offensively, with players like (midfielders) Rocco Placentino and Joey Gjertsen who can also play as forwards."

Gbeke was in his second stint with the Impact, signing as a free agent before the start of the 2007 season after having spent 2006 with the Rochester Raging Rhinos.

He played 11 games, including the playoffs, for Montreal in 2005 after being acquired from the Toronto Lynx before the Aug. 1 trading deadline. In the playoffs that year, the semifinal against Seattle, he scored all three of the team's goals.

Gbeke, also named second team All-League last season and voted the most popular Impact player by fans, had only one goal in 12 games this season.

Donatelli will join his new teammates at practice for the first time tomorrow. Gbeke saw action yesterday when the Whitecaps beat Toronto FC of MLS 1-0 in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship, the three-team round-robin to decide Canada's representative in the CONCACAF Champions League tournament this year.

After yesterday's game, the Impact led the championships standings with six points, three more than Toronto and Vancouver.

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2008