An eye for the goals - The Province

Without him team would falter

Marc Weber
The Province

It's hard to whine about the Whitecaps offence when Eddy Sebrango is aging like wine.

The convivial Cuban, now 35, leads the team in scoring by such a margin that you have to question where they would be without him this season.

Sebrango has 10 goals. No one else has more than two. The team: 25.

And of the Whitecaps' 11 wins this season, Sebrango has netted the winner six times.

"There's just something about him," marvelled Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson. "He always looks likely to score goals -- you can smell it.

"It's impossible to say where we'd be without him but he's had a fantastic influence on our season. It's huge."

Last season provides a pretty good indication of life without Eddy.

The Whitecaps roared out to a 5-0-2 start with Sebrango scoring six times. Then he injured his ankle and the Caps went winless in 12-games, breaking out of the funk in Sebrango's first game back.

"You see how much he means to us when he's in the lineup," said veteran midfielder/defender Steve Kindel. "You also see how much he means when he's out."

Experience has its benefits and Sebrango often scores goals of the right place, right time variety.

But he's not just an aging cherry picker. He pressures defenders. He sprints back. And he still scores goals off the rush.

Physically, he doesn't play like a 35-year-old, and considering his injury laundry list since 2003, that's no small feat.

It's even come as a bit of a surprise to Sebrango, who scored 18 goals as a USL rookie with Vancouver in 1999 and again with Montreal in 2002.

"I thought by this time I'd have to change my game, I'd be less mobile," he admitted. "But that's not the case. I feel healthy. I feel fit. Lots of energy.

"Montreal gave up on me three years ago," he said of being traded back to Vancouver after scoring only four times in the 2005 season. "They thought I was done. Even this season with the Whitecaps, nobody, I think, expected me to play 22 games.

"I'm second to Martin Nash in minutes and that's more what I'm proud of this year."

The routine has changed somewhat. Sebrango -- who was suspended for Wednesday night's tilt in Seattle -- says he's cut out his 30-minute post-practice fitness sessions. And he's indulged in some pampering, too, going for weekly massages.

Dinner is still rice and beans every day and he eats "like a pig," but now he enjoys a cheeky beverage.

"Now I have my glass of wine, my beer," he said. "I'm allowed."

The aging Sebrango success story would be inspiring to Kindel if the 31-year-old thought he had a chance to match his teammate's vigour in four years.

"It's not inspiration for me," said Kindel, "because I look at him and he's just a machine.

"None of us in our early 30s are going to be doing what Eddy's doing at his age. That's a guarantee."

mweber@theprovince.com

USL Division 1 goal-scoring leaders (not including Wednesday night's games)

Gls GP Player Team
11 21 Alex Alfonso Miami FC
10 20 Mac Kandji Atlanta
10 22 Eddy Sebrango Vancouver
10 24 Sebastien Le Toux Seattle
8 20 Melvin Tarley Minnesota
8 21 Randi Patterson, Charleston
8 21 Ricardo Sanchez Minnesota

© The Vancouver Province 2008