Whitecaps cut combative defender Wesley Charles loose - The Province

Defender released after second clash with teammate

By Marc Weber

A season lacking in wins but not drama continued Tuesday for the Vancouver Whitecaps.

The club released defender Wesley Charles hours after the former vice-captain confronted fellow centre back Jeff Parke in practice.

An official announcement will come Wednesday morning.

The two were battling for the ball during a possession drill when they came nose-to-nose. Nasty words flew and head coach Teitur Thordarson sent Charles for an early shower.

Parke accused Charles of throwing an elbow and head-butting him.

It was the sort of incident that, in isolation, would have likely been brushed off. But in light of Charles's embarrassing in-game scrap with teammate Charles Gbeke last month — which resulted in two-game suspensions for both — it was too much for the club to put up with.

"It's the second incident between Wesley and a teammate in just over a month," Whitecaps director of professional teams Greg Anderson said Tuesday evening. "After the Gbeke-Charles incident both were warned that if that type of thing happened again that we'd have to take serious action."

Thordarson wasn't available for comment Tuesday night, but he expressed his displeasure after practice.

"I'm extremely unhappy with his behaviour," the coach said after an otherwise upbeat session. "I think I am pretty calm, but when I feel it's too much, it's too much."

Charles, 33, joined the Whitecaps midway through last season and was a key cog in their USL-1 title run. The Saint Vincent and the Grenadines international, who spent 11 seasons playing in the League of Ireland, was in his club option year with the Whitecaps.

Twice in the early part of this season Charles was granted leave to deal with personal family matters in Ireland. He was unavailable for comment Tuesday night, but after the fight with Gbeke he denied that his personal issues were affecting his mood.

Thordarson loves to talk up a player's personality as much as his skill, so the fact Charles was vice-captain tells you what the coach thought of him.

But Thordarson admitted Tuesday that he felt Charles had been a different person this season.

Charles had started 12 of 15 league games for Vancouver, and the Whitecaps could also soon lose Parke, who is free to test European options during this transfer window.

Thordarson has a handful of central defenders on trial, including York University's Gerard Ladiyou and Tanzanian national team member Nadir Haroub.

The front-runner to fill in for Charles, though — much to the chagrin of the public address announcer and Shaw TV — is Nigerian Michael Ndubuisi Onwuatuegwu, a 6-foot-3 ball winner who's played five years in Indonesia.

Perhaps of more importance is how this decision on Charles will affect the team's mentality.

The Whitecaps (5-7-3) have two wins in their last nine league games, one win on the road all season, and are tied for the seventh and final playoff spot with the Montreal Impact.

Charles is also close with countryman and forward Marlon James, the Whitecaps' big offseason signing.

"We've got good players here, but we haven't meshed well enough," said captain Martin Nash, whose side hosts the Puerto Rico Islanders on Saturday.

"We can be a great team and then the next week look terrible. We've got to figure it out pretty quick."

mweber@theprovince.com
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