Central defence central to offseason priorities - The Province


Porous unit priority for coach

By Marc Weber

It was the main table topic all season, and after a brief period of eerie quiet on the subject, it was raised as loud as ever in the final three games.

Central defence.

Vancouver allowed nine goals combined in the second-leg of their semifinal against Portland and two-leg final against Montreal.

It certainly can't all be pinned on the heart of the defence, but there were problems there.

After an impressive run of form for the partnership of Shaun Pejic and Chris Pozniak -- who both arrived at the transfer deadline -- then Pejic and Luca Bellisomo through three playoff games, the bubble burst.

Pejic, especially, had a rough final two weeks. In Saturday's 3-1 USL-1 championship loss to the Impact, the assessment of Pejic's tackle on Roberto Brown as a penalty and red card might have been harsh.

But with a better touch, he could have avoided the series of events that led up to it.

Bellisomo, 22, gave the Caps more than they could have ever expected in the playoffs, but Joey Gjertsen slipped him to create the third goal.

"Absolutely, without a doubt, definitely priority No. 1," is how head coach Teitur Thordarson characterized the centre-back situation.

He used 10 different players there this season, culminating with Bellisomo. In 30 league games, 19 different back four combinations were tested.

It's a problem that extends back well into Bob Lilley's stint as bench boss before Thordarson. Finding a consistently reliable centre back is not easy at this level.

This season there was injury, poor behaviour and foreign ambition at the position. In short, it was a merry-go-round.

"Basically you can say all success if built on good defensive work," Thordarson said. "We have had good defensive work this season, but we lost too many even games on our own mistakes. We made mistakes that cost us and we have to get in something solid in that place."

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