Whitecaps brace for onslaught - The Province

In Carolina, Vancouver faces Railhawks' rested scorers

By Marc Weber

The Carolina RailHawks have dealt with the risk and are anticipating a big reward. The Vancouver Whitecaps are hoping to prove it was a big miscalculation.

Winger Gregory Richardson, midfielder Joseph Kabwe and forward Sallieu Bundu are expected to suit up for Carolina as they host the second leg of their USL-1 quarterfinal series today at WakeMed Park in Cary, N.C. (2 p.m., USLlive.com).

The seventh-seeded Whitecaps lead 1-0 thanks to rookie Randy Edwini-Bonsu's first professional goal on Thursday night at Swangard Stadium, and the defending champions need only a tie to advance.

But the second-seeded RailHawks came to Vancouver without three of their leading scorers -- a total of 17 goals between them -- in what was almost certainly a calculated move to unleash the rested trio on the Whitecaps today.

Carolina coach Martin Rennie has not said as much, but none appear injured.

The RailHawks need a two-goal margin of victory to crack the semifinals after 90 minutes. A one-goal win sends the teams to a pair of 15-minute extra-time sessions (no golden goal), followed by penalty kicks if they're still tied.

Richardson, a fast, dynamic player who joined the RailHawks midseason after a failed MLS stint, is the focal point for the Whitecaps.

"In the games we've played them, he's been the most dangerous one," said Caps head coach Teitur Thordarson, whose squad was a miserable 2-7-6 on the road this season. "We can't give him space and time, that is key. But also we have to deny the service to him and we are very aware of where these balls come from."

Richardson and Bundu had the goals in a 2-1 home win over Vancouver on July 17, though Richardson's was later changed to an own goal.

The 27-year-old member of Guyana's national team played less than half the season but led Carolina with 16 points on six goals (two points per goal) and four assists. What's worse for Vancouver is all of Richardson's points came at WakeMed Park where Carolina went 11-2-2, outscoring teams 32-8.

Richardson loves to raid down the left side, and Thordarson had rookie Wes Knight at right back in their two regular-season meetings in Carolina (the other was a 1-1 tie on Aug. 18).

Today, the coach will keep Lyle Martin at right back and Knight at right wing, as they were in Thursday's first leg win.

Martin has more experience and pace than Knight, who is no slouch in the speed department, but both will play a key defensive role.

"Richardson and Bundu, they're just great individual players," said Knight, a native of Easley, S.C. who'll have seven family members make the near-five-hour trip up. "Both can run at you with the ball and are deceptive enough to get you on your heels.

"The key to playing Richardson is denying him the ball first and foremost. If he does get it, you have to use the sideline as a defender and keep him there. And if he cuts inside, you have to have guys covering you."

Aside from the key individual matchup, it's going to be an interesting tactical game. Thordarson vowed to keep on the offensive.

"To be in and around your box for 90 minutes," he said, "sooner or later they'll find a way through. We're going to attack them, but we have to do our defensive job well. We'll try to be clever, that is the best way to put it."

Vancouver is without centre back Chris Pozniak (groin), meaning Luca Bellisomo of Coquitlam gets his second straight -- and second career -- start there.

The Whitecaps also lost central midfielder Gordon Chin to a knee injury Thursday, which opens the door for Kenold Versailles to start along side Martin Nash. Tanzanian midfielder Nizar Khalfan (ankle) made the trip, too.

mweber@theprovince.com

Today's game

Whitecaps at Carolina RailHawks

USL-1 quarterfinals -- second leg (Vancouver leads 1-0)

Time: 2 p.m.

Place: WakeMed Park, Cary, N.C.

TV/Radio: None

Web: USLlive.com
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