Back to basics for final bid - The Province

Coach stresses fundamentals ahead of Montreal tilt

By Marc Weber

At times Tuesday, the Vancouver Whitecaps' last home practice of the season looked suspiciously like their first.

They'd scrimmage for 30 seconds. Head coach Teitur Thordarson would yell, "Stop!" He'd point out where people should have been, and where they should be going. Granted, there are always tweaks to make in search of perfection. But this was different.

Four days away from making a final stand in defence of their USL-1 title in Montreal, the Whitecaps were dealing with some elementary issues.

That's what comes with injury and suspension and change. Based on Tuesday's session, there will be three switches in midfield from Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Impact at Swangard Stadium.

The one player remaining there, Kenold Versailles, was getting most of the instruction after a lamentable performance in the first leg.

"Yeah, it would have been nice to come to this final game with everything set, but unfortunately it's been like this all season," said Thordarson. "We've lost players with injuries and disciplinary things, and we've had to deal with it. But we'll be fine. We'll give them a good game."

The most recent injury is to right-back Lyle Martin, who's been ruled out of Saturday's clash after suffering a knee injury in the opener.

Wes Knight will shift back from his usual right-wing position, likely opening the door for midfielder Justin Moose to start his first game since May 30.

Chris Pozniak practiced in central midfield Tuesday alongside Versailles, and Marlon James, not Charles Gbeke, partnered with Marcus Haber up front.

Moose has endured a frustrating year that started with abdominal pain and continued with a nagging foot injury. He played just 114 regular-season minutes.

He says he'll make up for any tactical unfamiliarity with his trademark tenacity.

"I'm not going to pace myself," said the 25-year-old from North Carolina.

"I'm going to lay it out on the line, and my engine will keep running for as long as it will let me."

Pozniak, meanwhile, is expected to step in for captain Martin Nash, who was banished midway through the first leg, and for the final, for a cynical tackle on Impact forward Roberto Brown.

Nash said after the game that Brown embellished the challenge, that "He cried like a baby and the referee bought it."

Tuesday, Brown fired back, telling website RueFrontenac.com that Nash was the one acting like a child.

"A real pro takes responsibility for his actions and is able to admit when he makes a mistake," Brown said in French. "He put his team in trouble and looked for an excuse because he didn't want to admit how stupid his action was."

It doesn't matter anymore. Nash isn't playing Saturday and the Whitecaps have to win without him. Despite the loss of their captain, and the fact some basic lessons were still being taught in training Tuesday, there's one big reason for this group's optimism.

Pozniak just smiled when asked for the root of their confidence.

"The fact is, we sense that we can always score," he said. "We proved that down to 10 men on Saturday. We have very dangerous forwards and we're always capable of getting a goal. So, we always have a chance."

USL-1 Final, 2nd leg

Vancouver at Montreal

When: Saturday, 11:30 a.m.

At: Saputo Stadium

TV: Fox Sports World Canada

Radio: TEAM 1040 AM

The skinny: Montreal leads aggregate goals series 3-2 (no away goals rule). If teams are tied after the second leg, they'll play 30 minutes of overtime (no golden goal), followed, if needed, by penalty kicks.

Online at Back of The Net: Marc Weber blogs from Montreal at theprovince.com/blogs
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