'Caps hoping to clear air - The Province


BY MARC WEBER

If you'd asked the Vancouver Whitecaps for their favourite road city last week, it's a good bet Montreal would have topped the survey.

But flying into Cleveland on Monday -- La Belle Province firmly in the distance -- felt like heaven.

"It was a rough time in Montreal, a real low weekend for us," said goalkeeper Jay Nolly. "First with the game we watched and then the one we played. We're glad to get out of there."

It was a case of 'double Impact' for the Whitecaps -- a visit even more excruciating than sitting through the Jean-Claude Van Damme movie of the same name.

The Impact's embarrassing 6-1 loss to Toronto FC on Thursday vaulted the MLS club past Vancouver and into the CONCACAF Champions League as Canadian title holders.

Then, on Saturday, the Whitecaps failed to satisfy their sense of justice, losing 2-1 to an Impact side bolstered by the starters who controversially sat out the Toronto tilt.

Suddenly, with no Champions League on the horizon, the Whitecaps' mediocre 4-5-2 start to USL-1 play is magnified.

Cleveland could also be a cure for that. The expansion City Stars -- last year's USL-2 champs -- are 2-9-2 overall and 1-4-1 at their home field, Middlefield Cheese Stadium, where they'll be playing their third game in six days.

A Whitecaps loss there today (4 p.m., USLlive.com) would stink like month-old Stilton.

"We've got to turn things around and make up some points and this is a great opportunity for us to come together," said Nolly, whose side sits eighth in the 11-team league.

Anything less than a victory, he noted, will give the players and staff even more to think about over the upcoming break. The defending USL-1 champions don't play again until July 9 and several players, like Salt Lake City resident Nolly, will take the opportunity to return home for a few days.

Gbeke targeted

Whitecaps forward Charles Gbeke was officially named Monday to Canada's extended roster for the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup, which opens July 3 across the U.S.

The Montreal-raised forward provides a target-man option up front for interim head coach Stephen Hart, who will cut his 23-man roster by three before Canada's opener against Jamaica. The squad gathers in L.A. later this week for a training camp.

Gbeke is currently serving a two-game suspension for the Whitecaps after an on-field fight with teammate Wesley Charles in a June 12 home game.

B.C.-born players on the roster are D Richard Hastings (Inverness CT, Scotland), M Kevin Harmse (Toronto FC) and M/F Josh Simpson (FC Kaiserslautern, Germany).

Women pressed to win

The Whitecaps women wrap up their California road trip tonight against the defending W-League champion Pali Blues of L.A.

Already halfway through the brief 12-game season, Vancouver (1-1-4) likely has to run the table, or very close to it, to make the playoffs.

The Whitecaps will take confidence from their first win -- 3-1 over Ventura County on Saturday -- and the fact they drew Pali (3-0-3) at home on June 7.

mweber@theprovince.com

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