Jarun ready for taste of Montreal - The Province

Defender back in lineup for semifinal after suspension and injury

Marc Weber

Think of a caged tiger. Now think of one that's had a piece of meat dangled in front of its face, just out of reach, for three weeks.

Meet Omar Jarun.

"You don't want to come out of the gates and be all crazy, running 100 miles an hour, but it's going to be hard not to I'm so pumped up just to play again," said the Vancouver Whitecaps' mammoth central defender.

The Whitecaps open their two-game, aggregate-goals USL-1 semifinal series in Montreal on Friday before the return leg in Vancouver on Sunday.

Jarun was banned from the final two regular-season games and the playoff opener due to red- and yellow-card suspensions, then forced to stay home from Sunday's playoff game in Minnesota with a hip flexor injury picked up in practice.

His pent-up passion and aggression were palpable as he raced through interview answers, sweat flowing, at practice Tuesday.

"Frustrating, disappointing," he said of the last three weeks that began with confusion over how long his suspension would last. "It's been a long time. It feels like a new season's going to start for me."

He looked ready for a feast Tuesday, and he didn't hide his love for Montreal smoked meat.

The Whitecaps were 2-0-1 against the Impact in league play, but Montreal won both Canadian championship meetings en route to qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League.

"I'm still kind of upset from the whole Canada Cup thing with those guys," he said. "I don't really like those guys anyway, Montreal, never have.

"It should be a good series. It's going to come down to something like a set piece."

One of the team's nicest guys off the field, Jarun isn't afraid to use his 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame on it. His 43 fouls in 24 games placed him fifth in the league.

Head coach Teitur Thordarson again expressed his feeling that referees were unfairly punishing Jarun, the Palestinian-American from Peachtree City, Ga.

"It has been depending a little bit on the referees, how they look at things," said Thordarson, "but he is an aggressive player and we just have to accept that.

"For us, without a doubt, he's a very important player."

Jarun isn't likely to displace Wesley Charles in central defence, but could start there instead of Jeff Clarke, who would be freed up to play alongside Martin Nash in central midfield.

Youngster Mason Trafford performed well there against Minnesota, but would likely be the odd man out.

Jarun's return is also timely as defender Geordie Lyall pulled his right hamstring again Sunday and won't travel to Montreal.

mweber@theprovince.com

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SERIES SCHEDULE

UNITED SOCCER LEAGUES
First Division semifinal
Whitecaps vs. Montreal Impact

First leg
When: Friday, 5 p.m. PST
Where: Saputo Stadium, Montreal
Web radio: www.team990.com
Web TV: USLlive.com

Second leg
When: Sunday, 3:30 p.m.
Where: Swangard Stadium
Radio: TEAM 1040 AM
TV: Fox Sports World Canada