Whitecaps capture championship title - Burnaby Now
Burnaby has another champion.
The Vancouver Whitecaps won their second United Soccer Leagues first division championship in three seasons by defeating the Puerto Rico Islanders 2-1 at Swangard Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The hero of the day was striker Charles Gbeke, who headed in two second-half goals to offset Puerto Rico's lone goal by Sandy Gbandi.
Gbeke's first had a definite Burnaby and New Westminster flavour as former Alpha Aztec Alfredo Valente's corner was nodded on by New Westminster-born Jeff Clarke to the far post.
Gbeke rose above the orange-clad Islander defenders and beat Islanders' keeper Bill Gaudette in the 55th minute.
Gbandi tied it in the 68th minute, but, five minutes after that, the Whitecaps' Justin Moose whipped in a cross that Gbeke headed into the net again for the game winner.
"The two biggest goals of my career, and it feels great," said the striker who came to Vancouver in a midseason trade from Montreal.
Gbeke, who's in his fourth tour of duty with the Whitecaps since 1998 - he has also played in France, Brazil and Denmark - was too much to handle for the Islanders.
"I'm very disappointed," said Islanders' head coach Colin Clarke. "We didn't do a good enough job on set plays."
Clarke, who wears the captain's armband for the Whitecaps, couldn't be happier to win a title before a jubilant and adoring home crowd.
"Our fans are joining in it with us, and it's just a wonderful feeling," Clarke said of their second title. The first was won in Rochester in 2006.
The Whitecaps weren't expected to be this good this fast because they had relieved Bob Lilley of his coaching duties last off-season and hired Iceland international Teitur Thordarson, who beat out Burnaby native Nick Dasovic for the job.
Thordarson instituted a more offensive style of soccer, but with only Eddy Sebrango able to score consistently early in the year, the Whitecaps had to trade dependable midfielder Tony Donatelli to Montreal for Gbeke.
"You trade for a guy like Gbeke," explained Clarke, "(somebody) who steps up in a game like this."
The game at Swangard - an announced sellout of 5,822 although there appeared to be a lot of standing room attendees - was the biggest game since last summer's FIFA u-20 World Cup, a game between Spain and Brazil, won by the Spaniards 4-2.
The Whitecaps have also finalized their submission to Major League Soccer for an expansion franchise that they hope will be accepted for the 2011 season.
© Burnaby Now 2008