Whitecaps keeper is a pillar between the posts - The Vancouver Sun

By Ian Walker

Alicia Nolly, you should be so proud. Even when faced with a difficult, if not sensitive, topic your new husband would not tell a lie.

He easily could have. All he needed to do was say 'No' and keep a straight face and that would have been that. Next question. But he didn't. Instead, the Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper admitted to talking to inanimate objects. Caressing them at night before returning to your loving arms.

But don't worry. He didn't just blurt it out in front of a bunch of strangers. At least he waited until the video cameras had stopped rolling.

It was while talking about tonight's rematch with the Montreal Impact in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship. As you know, your other half was easily the player of the match as the Whitecaps opened with a 2-0 victory last Wednesday. Not that it was easy, mind you. And not that he didn't have a little luck on his side -- if you remember, three of the Impact's first-half chances hit the crossbar.

That's when the truth was revealed.

"I've always, before each half, walked down and touched the left post and then the right post, and sometimes it pays off," reasoned Nolly, with a shrug, before adding his relationship with steel tubing doesn't end there. "Afterwards, I go tell them thank you. I told them thank you in Montreal and when we switched nets in the second half I told them that 'I'd need your help too.'"

He didn't. Although the 6-3, 205-pounder was forced to fend off numerous Montreal attacks, including one five-minute span when he thwarted the Impact three times, including a shot by former teammate Eddie Sebrango.

The Whitecaps now control their own destiny in the three-team, six-game tournament with a win tonight greatly enhancing their legitimate shot at representing Canada in CONCACAF Champions League play. Toronto (2-0) leads the Nutrilite Championship with six points, three up on the second-place Whitecaps (1-1), who host the Major League Soccer side next Tuesday in their tourney finale.

A draw or worse tonight for the Whitecaps and ... let's just say you need a math degree to figure out the endless possible scenarios, all of which would be on the slim side.

"We definitely need a win, we know that," said Whitecaps captain Martin Nash. "It keeps us in the competition and gives us a chance next week to do something. Both teams are going to be going hard with so much at stake."

Already there's talk of this year's championship coming down to goal differential. All the more reason to expect the Whitecaps and Impact to come out pressing from the opening kick. Toronto currently leads with a plus-2 goal differential, while Vancouver has plus-1 and Montreal minus-1.

"These games are not games where you can go out and defend and hope -- you have to make your own destiny here," said Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson, following Tuesday's morning practice at the team's SFU training facility. "You have to go out and try and win. It can come down to goal differential and in that case our two goals in Montreal were very important."

Same goes for the zero goals allowed by Nolly, who has played every minute of every game this season. The 27-year-old backstopped the Whitecaps to a United Soccer Leagues First Division title in his first year with the club last season.

When he wasn't doing that, he was helping you, Alicia, plan for your dream wedding which you had in the off-season. Congratulations. To think you guys met on a blind date. Now look at you two. Hikes along the Cleveland Dam, the Capilano River Park and Lynn Valley; just waiting for the right time to give the Grouse Grind a try on for size. The posts don't get to do that.

"It's really great having her to come home to every day," said Nolly. "As soon as I get out of here I race home so we can hang out and do stuff. There's so much to do in Vancouver. We're just exploring together and that's the ultimate. It really is."

iwalker@vancouversun.com

www.twitter.com/WalkerBigTalker

NEXT GAME

Tonight vs. Montreal Impact

7:30 p.m.at Swangard Stadium

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