BURNABY, BC (BCSB) - One of the best feelings, in any team sport, comes from the satisfaction of scoring against your old team.
Former Whitecaps Dave Testo can attest to that after scoring a crucial goal for the Impact earlier this season to effectively knock the 'Caps out of the CONCACAF qualifiers.
On this night however, it was a former Impact player, Charles Gbeke, who scored the game-winner late in the first half to seal a 1-0 for Vancouver during a chippy, playoff-like match in front of a raucous sellout crowd at Swangard.
In a tight contest where neither side was prone to making any mistakes, it looked sure to be a 0-0 halftime score until Gbeke (Air Gbeke?) rose and then seemed to hang in the air for several seconds before heading in the game winner with precious few seconds remaining in extra time of the opening period. The cross came courtesy of the team's assist leader Lyle Martin, whose nifty move down the wing to beat his man ensured he, was in good position for the pinpoint delivery.
In the build up to the match, Gbeke had predicted he would score and he made good on his word. However, things took a downturn for the stocky forward early in the second half when an inadvertent elbow from Montreal midfielder Antonio Rebeiro caught him in the face and he was forced to sit the remainder of the game on the bench with an ice pack glued to his face. He was replaced by residency striker, Dever Orgill, who showed promise but is clearly lacking in experience at a higher level.
Though the Impact applied a bit of pressure in the closing minutes, very few of their chances were unnerving for the capacity crowd. A hard strike in 88th minute by Pato Aguilera which sailed just over the bar was as close as they would come. Sorely missing from their line-up due to injury was the club's leading goal scorer and Panamanian international Roberto Brown.
In the opening period, Eduardo Sebrango, a former Impact player who scored the only goal when the two teams clashed in the first game of the season back in April, almost opened the scoring when he ran onto a clever ball slipped through by the ever industrious and creative Justin Moose to go in one-on-one with Impact keeper Matt Jordan. As the ball was targeted for the bottom right corner, Jordan managed to get just enough on it to obstruct its momentum and allow the Montreal defenders time to track back and clear it off the line.
Sebrango would go on to have several more chances on the night but ironically, his scoring touch let him down on the very night he was so lauded for his offensive prowess. Prior to kickoff, Sebrango had been rewarded for a tremendous season by being named the Whitecaps Top Scorer and MVP for 2008.
The praise did not stop there either as the thirty-four year old also won the Whitecaps Philanthropy award, for going above and beyond the call of duty in helping with the community. The Cuban's philanthropic work in his native country is no secret and he makes it a point to return each off-season bearing gifts of soccer balls, jerseys etc. And even though he did not make a mark on the game, he scored the equivalent of a hat trick off the field. Teaming up with Flight Centre and Red Cross, fans were encouraged to buy paper airplanes before halftime for a contest which saw three winners receive Flight Centre gift certificates and all the proceeds going directly to the hurricane relief efforts in Cuba.
With both teams having already clinched playoff spots, the game did not make or break either team's season. With the deserved win - considering they dominated possession and outshot their opponents by double – the 'Caps retained slim chances of finishing first overall in the USL-1. They can only hope that the Impact, along with the Atlanta Silverbacks (who are battling for a playoff spot), can do them a favour by beating the league leading Islanders in the remaining two games remaining in the regular season.
The Whitecaps final game of the season is away to another team vying for a playoff spot, the Seattle Sounders, on September 20th. It will be the Sounders very last USL-1 regular season game, as the team prepares to start next season in the MLS.
Man of the Match: Ethan Gage
Never heard of him? That's because he's only 17 and only made his first tackle for the senior team in August! The youngster was rock solid while partnering veteran Martin Nash in the centre of midfield. He battled hard and played intelligent balls beyond his tender age all night long. The future is bright for the Cochrane, Alberta teenager.