Goodbye, Gbeke, we're gonna miss ya - The Province


Whitecaps' top scorer planning to test offseason free-agent market

BY MARC WEBER

For the second straight season, Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson has said goodbye to his leading scorer. This time, though, it was by choice.

A year after 12-goal man Eduardo Sebrango bolted for Montreal after a championship run, 12-goal man Charles Gbeke has been wished bonne chance on the free agent market.

Also Thursday, the Whitecaps re-signed captain Martin Nash for 2010, and said they would not pursue deals for defender/midfielder Lyle Martin and winger Vicente Arze.

"It's just part of renewing the group, getting younger players in, preparing the team for [Major League Soccer]," said Thordarson, who guided the squad to the United Soccer Leagues First Division final again this season.

Gbeke, 31, was a free agent, but the Montrealer said he'd return to Vancouver if he felt truly wanted.

Thordarson praised Gbeke's contribution to the club since coming over in mid-season trade in 2008, but what the coach wanted even more was a chance to work 19-year-old residency forwards Randy Edwini-Bonsu and Dever Orgill into the mix.

"Charles was excellent for us, I think we got the best out of him all the way through," said Thordarson, "but I look at both [Edwini-Bonsu and Orgill] as very promising strikers and we hopefully have Marlon [James] healthy next year and Marcus [Haber] has proven he can play on this level."

Gbeke was the 2008 title-game hero with two goals. His 2009 season felt like its own stage production -- a confusing yet intoxicating mixture of triumph and tragicomedy.

He struggled to score. He pouted. He followed his father's advice and adjusted his attitude -- for a game. He had a blow-up with teammate Wesley Charles, during a home game, while winning. He was suspended and fined and adjusted his attitude again. He scored at will. He praised his teammates. He was lovable again. He sounded off to French-Canadian media after starting the final on the bench. He said the comments were lost in translation.

In the end, though, Thordarson said is was simply "a technical decision."

"We put all that behind us," the coach said of the mid-season scrap between Gbeke and Charles.

Martin, 24, had one goal and two assists in 18 appearances, slowed by a broken foot in training camp.

Thordarson said it was time for the speedy California native to seek a new challenge. Standout rookie Wes Knight, 23, is likely to slide into the right back spot.

"He's been here three years and it's been a little up and down and I just felt his motivation needed a new boost," the coach said.

Neither Gbeke nor Martin could be reached for comment.

Nash said he's already excited for the new season. The team is beginning more year-round training, starting again in November.

"I enjoyed this year a lot, the role of captain, and I thought we had a good year," Nash said. "We came to the end of the season still happy to train and not ready for it to end."

mweber@theprovince.com

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