Rivalries alive for Whitecaps-Impact tilt - The Vancouver Sun

Vancouver missing 3 key defenders for tonight's game

John Atkinson
Special to The Sun

Teitur Thordarson sends his patched-up Vancouver troops into battle against Montreal tonight confident they can overcome adversity once more and keep their USL First Division title dream alive.

The Whitecaps head coach is without three of his first-choice defenders for the visit of in-form Impact who now lie third in the league, just one place and six points behind Vancouver, with a game in hand.

Centre-halves Omar Jarun (suspended) and Wes Charles (quad strain) are both unavailable, while regular left-back, Takashi Hirano, is sidelined with a calf problem.

As a result, skipper Jeff Clarke is likely to be partnered in the centre of defence by Geordie Lyall, only recently returned from long-term injury and usually a right-back, while midfielder Steve Kindel will fill in for Hirano.

Thordarson admitted the defensive situation wasn't ideal, but said he had no qualms about having to shuffle his pack once more in a season during which injuries and suspensions have forced his hand on several occasions.

The Whitecaps have already qualified for the playoffs and have an outside chance of catching Puerto Rico for the league title.

"Wes [Charles] is getting closer but the medical staff said it would be a big risk to throw him in [against Montreal]," Thordarson said. "We [could] lose him for the rest of the season. Taka is out, struggling with a calf injury, while Omar is suspended for three games."

"So we have to change everything again, but have been quite good [at adapting to adversity] throughout the season. I'm not afraid of doing that. Those guys know what to do."

One of those guys, the versatile Kindel, will have no problem adapting to his new role, having played a significant chunk of his career on the left side of defence.

"Early on in my career I played in midfield, but the last three years I have played [mostly] at left back," Kindel said. "So I'm comfortable in either position."

Kindel is also looking forward to reigniting a rivalry against Montreal, the only other Canadian team in the USL First Division, who the Whitecaps have already locked horns with four times this season.

Vancouver won 1-0 at Swangard in April, before the sides shared a 0-0 tie in Montreal a month later. Impact then took the Canadian Championship spoils home and away in June, banking a brace of 2-0 victories.

The national/club rivalry blankets a cluster of individual ones, too. Martin Nash, Eduardo Sebrango and summer signing Charles Gbeke all previously plied their trade at Impact, while Montreal will likely sport former Whitecaps Tony Donatelli, Joey Gjertsen and David Testo.

"[Several] guys on both teams have played for both clubs, so there will be a lot of pride on the line," Kindel added. "There is always extra motivation against [Montreal] and I always see Eddie [Sebrango] more pumped up to play his old team."

Top scorer Sebrango is likely to be doubly pumped up tonight after a stressful week off the pitch. The Cuban forward's family has been caught up in the major hurricanes to hit the country in recent weeks, including Hurricane Ike.

Sebrango has called upon Whitecaps' fans to help hurricane victims by making donations to the Red Cross at tonight's game. The club has also teamed up with Flight Centre, which has donated prizes for a half-time contest. Fans who wish to donate immediately, may do so online at redcross.ca, by calling toll-free at 1-800-418-1111 or at any Red Cross office.

© The Vancouver Sun 2008