Ex-Montreal player relishes chance to beat his old team
Charles Gbeke has had visions of victory on Saturday night, and he's the central figure.
The Vancouver Whitecaps forward, who came over from the Montreal Impact in a July 7 trade, was in a predictive mood at practice Thursday as his new team readied for a crucial clash against his former side.
The Whitecaps must win to keep first-place hopes alive.
"I know I'm gonna do it," he said. "I know I'm gonna play an important role Saturday in the win."
Gbeke (pronounced "Bee-kay") long ago circled this game. The 30-year-old Montrealer tied for the USL-1 lead with 10 goals in 2007 but quickly fell out of favour with his hometown club this season, scoring once in seven starts.
Vancouver sent midfielder Tony Donatelli and cash Montreal's way.
While Gbeke's loving life in Vancouver now, there's still a bitter taste in his mouth that only a goal and a win can wash away.
"I want to win that game badly, the way things happened there this year," he said. "I'm just fired up. I think it's the biggest game of the season for me and I think our team is way better than Montreal is. We've just gotta prove it."
That statement might provide a little locker-room fodder, not that these teams need any added motivation. Vancouver is trying to chase down Puerto Rico for first place and an opening-round playoff bye, while Montreal can still realistically end up anywhere from second to sixth.
"I really want to win this league and I don't think that's over yet," said Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson. "I don't think it's a given that Puerto Rico will win the games they have left."
As evidenced again in their 0-0 draw with Minnesota last Sunday, the Whitecaps' weakness is their lack of scoring. Some of it is due to a imperfect final pass and some of it is due to a failure to finish. It's certainly not for a lack of build-up brimming with opportunity.
Gbeke's partner up front, Eduardo Sebrango, is another former Impact player, and Thordarson said that little extra fire in the belly can only help his team's offensive woes. "Both of them are a little fired up to play this game and that's a good thing. But we have some on the other side who have been here, so I guess they have that same feeling."
True enough. Former Whitecaps Joey Gjertsen and David Testo struck in Montreal wins over Vancouver this season. And now Donatelli, too, must be watched. He's scored four times in 14 games since heading east.
"It's always a tough game against Montreal," said Caps midfielder Martin Nash. "Always a rivalry, always a battle. If we come with the right attitude, hopefully we'll come away with the right result."
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Whitecaps vs. Montreal Impact
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: Swangard Stadium
The skinny: Two games remain in the regular season for Vancouver, which trails Puerto Rico by two points for first place. Puerto Rico, however, has a game in hand (tonight at Rochester) and holds the tiebreaker, putting them in the driver's seat for the Commissioner's Cup and an opening-round playoff bye. Vancouver closes out the regular season at Seattle next Saturday, while Puerto Rico hosts Atlanta and travels to Montreal. A win for Montreal tonight and suddenly they are a threat to overtake Vancouver for second. Montreal is 2-1-1 against Vancouver, including CONCACAF Champions League qualifying.
Whitecaps (13-7-8, 2nd place): Interesting times for coach Teitur Thordarson, who was uncertain Thursday about the health of D Wesley Charles and D Geordie Lyall. With D/M Takashi Hirano (foot) and D Omar Jarun (suspension) already out, the lineup could be youthful, though expect Charles to play.
Impact (12-10-5, 3rd place): Montreal did what Vancouver tried to do approaching the roster freeze and signed a pair of internationals for the stretch run. Peter Byers and Gason Gregory from Antigua and Barbuda joined and Byers has three goals in five games. Captain and centre back Nevio Pizzolitto is also available after a three-game suspension, though injured players include star F Roberto Brown and M Patrick Leduc.
© The Vancouver Province 2008