Ironman looks for playoff success - The Vancouver Sun

Martin Nash ready for post-season after playing in all 30 regular season games

John Atkinson

PLAYOFFS TONIGHT
Whitecaps vs. Minnesota Thunder
7 p.m. at Swangard Stadium - TEAM 1040

Having played every game of the Vancouver Whitecaps' regular USL First Division season, you could forgive Martin Nash for feeling a little jaded and being ready for a vacation.

However, playing all 30 league games for the first time in his career is water off a duck's back for the 32-year-old midfielder especially when it culminates in the playoffs.

Because, as Nash readily admits, when it comes to sports in North America it's all about the playoffs.

Vancouver came within a point of pipping Puerto Rico Islanders to the regular league crown, the Commissioners Cup, just last weekend.

But Nash didn't lose much sleep over that near-miss -- he was too busy focusing on taking advantage of his side's second seeding for the ensuing knockout competition, where the top seven USL-1 teams will battle it out for overall championship glory.

And now, after topping off his 30-game haul with another hard week's training, the younger brother of Phoenix Suns' star Steve Nash is energized and ready to tackle Minnesota Thunder tonight (Swangard, 7 p.m.) in playoff game one of a possible five.

"I've played every game [this season] and have held up pretty well so am feeling good going into the playoffs," Nash said Thursday.

"This is probably the most I've played in a season, which isn't a bad thing. It's nice to play minutes. I don't like to sit and watch too much.

"[But] it's nice to come to this point of the year and put everything towards what youve worked all year for.

"If you win [the regular season title] you get the Commissioner's Cup, [but that] doesn't really mean a whole lot. The championship is the big thing."

Nash was part of the Whitecaps' 2006 championship-winning side and has also won the top prize on two other occasions playing for Rochester, including 2000, when the Rhinos defeated Minnesota 3-1 in the final.

So the midfielder knows better than most what it takes to win the big thing and is confident the Vancouver team of 2008 has what it takes.

"It's been a good year, we've had a good record, finished high up in the league and got a good playoff [seeding], so hopefully we can take advantage," he said.

"I think pretty much everyone's healthy and we've been playing well of late, which is a good sign going into the playoffs."

Among those playing well is top scorer Eduardo Sebrango, who was also on the victorious Rochester side of 2000. Like Nash, he has three championship successes under his belt, also being a survivor of the Whitecaps 2006 triumph and helping Montreal Impact to glory in 2004. At 35, the Cuban forward has pretty much seen and done it all at this level but remains as physically fit, enthusiastic and hungry for success as ever.

"This is the best time of year to play and score goals and I'm really excited," Sebrango said. "I've won three championships before, but I want to win another and help the [Whitecaps] win another one." Head coach Teitur Thordarson confirmed his roster has virtually a clean bill of health going into the playoffs, with Geordie Lyall having recovered from a groin injury. Only the suspended Omar Jarun is unavailable for tonight's match. Hosting Minnesota at Swangard was in some doubt due to the torrential rain of recent days, but a pitch inspection Thursday afternoon gave Vancouver the green light. The Whitecaps will travel to Minnesota early Saturday in preparation for the second leg of the playoff quarter-final on Sunday (3:05 p.m.).

© The Vancouver Sun 2008