Veteran Young-Pyo Lee focused on playoff push as retirement looms: 'I believe it can happen'
VANCOUVER, BC -- The sun is preparing to set on Young-Pyo Lee's professional soccer career, but the former South Korean international isn't willing to go gently into that good night.
Set to retire at the end of this campaign, Lee has two regular season matches left to play with Vancouver Whitecaps FC, but is adamant he wants to finish his career in a playoff atmosphere.
If the 36-year-old can achieve that, it would be a fitting end to a career which has seen the technically gifted fullback grace the World Cup three times for his country, in addition to club stints in the top leagues of the Netherlands, England and Germany.
Still, Lee knows that even getting to the playoffs at this point remains difficult, with his side sitting three points back of Colorado Rapids – the team the 'Caps will play twice to finish the season – who sit in the fifth and final Western Conference playoff position.
At least a win and a draw – and maybe more – will be required to see Vancouver through to the post-season.
“It's not a good situation, but I believe it can happen," Lee told MLSsoccer.com frankly after a training session at the University of British Columbia on Thursday. "In football, anything can happen. We're chasing, we're the challenger – it's not someone following us. So I think [Colorado] are more nervous than us.”
Following a blockbuster 2-2 draw with the Portland Timbers and a 4-1 thrashing of the Seattle Sounders last week, Lee feels his team will carry the energy from those two cracking derby matches into this doubleheader against the Rapids.
“Last couple of games we've had a great mood, and we played very well,” Lee said. “I think we still have every chance to go to the next round.”
Watch Lee set up Camilo's scissor kick tally vs. Portland
With his side needing points, Lee has taken on individual responsibility, surging up from the right flank and joining in the attack – it's been to effect, as well, with the defender picking up assists in each of the last two matches.
“He's very focused -- these are the last few games of his career and he wants to finish on a high and I think he's playing really well,” said head coach Martin Rennie. “I think it's been an excellent season from him. He's done very well for us again. I think there was a point in the season where we gave him a little break, and since then he's done exceptionally well for us.
“He's an excellent leader in the way he goes about things – he leads by example and people respect him.”
And while Lee insists he's looking forward to his retirement, he wants to stretch out this final campaign as long as possible.
“The next two games are very important for me,” Lee said. “It's very emotional, but some day everyone has to stop. This is the time to stop for me.”
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.