Combatants paying price — Whitecaps, too? - The Province

Gbeke, Charles get paycheques cut, suspensions next, but then what?

BY MARC WEBER

Monday brought fines. Today serves up suspensions. In the days following — attitude adjustments.

The Vancouver Whitecaps slashed an undisclosed amount off the paycheques of defender Wesley Charles and forward Charles Gbeke on Monday after the pair clashed like male bison during mating season in Friday's home win over Miami.

The United Soccer Leagues will announce its suspensions today, and the Whitecaps will possibly follow with harsher bans.

"In our mind there's an adequate number of games," said club president Bob Lenarduzzi, who met with head coach Teitur Thordarson and director of professional teams Greg Anderson to determine the course of action. "Whatever the league does, [if it's not enough] we'll top it up."

Charles received a straight red card and Gbeke a yellow for the on-field skirmish that followed a botched 2-on-1 by Gbeke and Marlon James in the 84th minute.

When Gbeke was subbed off in the 90th, he booted the team's water bottles and was shown red. Sources said the two then had a brief scrap in the dressing room area.

Both were at training Monday — playing on the same team in a mini-game — and were contrite.

"I let a lot of people down, many people I don't know," said Charles, "and I'm very sorry for that."

Charles and Gbeke apologized to each other and to teammates on Saturday, but whether these two strong personalities can coexist and how damaging this incident will be for the team will remain to be seen.

"We're all prepared to move on," said captain Martin Nash.

Friday was the first in-game blowup between Charles and Gbeke, but they've had their share of practice tension since arriving midway through last season. Both have voracious appetites for winning and can be harsh.

The fact things escalated, then exploded, over nothing more than a failed odd-man break — while the team was winning — is perhaps telling of their relationship.

Charles, an assistant captain, said there was mutual respect there, but admitted the two wouldn't be sharing a pint.

"We probably won't be going for a beer any time soon," he said, "but I shook his hand and I apologized."

The two have been central figures for the defending USL-1 champions, who this year appear bound for the CONCACAF Champions League.

Just when they'll return to their roles fans will find out today. Whenever it is, they've both vowed to make some changes.

Gbeke, who less than two weeks ago said that fans can expect a calmer, more encouraging player — which lasted about a game-and-a-half — renewed his commitment to that end.

"It seems like I'm going after people too often," he said. "I have to keep it more to myself."

Charles said he'll pay more attention to how he barks at people from the back.

"I guess because of [playing in] Europe, I tend to say things a lot rougher than people here," he said. "As long as I'm here I'm going to keep giving instruction, but I think the level of demanding stuff, I'll take it down a notch."

E-mail: mweber@theprovince.com