Gjertsen over feeling jilted - The Province

Montreal star mellows toward 'Caps Marc Weber Joey Gjertsen is beyond feeling jilted. The former Vancouver Whitecaps forward, who was jettisoned to Montreal along with David Testo during a 2007 midseason slump, is loving life with the Impact. This weekend's two-leg semifinal between these two familiar clubs, he said, is more meaningful only because of its magnitude. "I'm over the trade and the transition to this team," Gjertsen said Wednesday before the Impact tackled Honduran side Olimpia in CONCACAF Champions League action. "We've already seen Vancouver five times this year, and now these next two are more important than the last five combined." It took time for Gjertsen to mellow toward his first professional side. It was former Whitecaps coach Bob Lilley who gave the Tacoma, Wash., native his first professional shot when he wasn't wanted in his own backyard. And it was in Vancouver that Gjertsen thrived, going from rookie of the year in 2005 to league MVP in 2006 when the Whitecaps won the championship. The 2007 trade was gut-wrenching for him. "It was very tough at the time," he said. "It was hard leaving the West Coast for sure, and I know I'm still pulling for the Whitecaps every week of the season, except [when we play them]." The Whitecaps tried to resign Gjertsen in the off-season, but couldn't come to terms. "I was a free agent, I was open to the idea of Vancouver because I never wanted to leave in the first place," he said. "We were in talks with them, but Montreal in the end was up front with me the whole time, and obviously they showed how much they wanted me. "I just felt it was right at that point. They showed good faith in treating me well." It's difficult for Whitecaps fans to forget the deal, as much for who came the other way as for who departed. Alen Marcina and Ze Roberto failed to make a difference and neither re-signed in Vancouver. And like Impact-turned-Whitecaps strikers Eddie Sebrango and Charles Gbeke, both Gjertsen and midfielder Testo have played decisive roles in head-to-head meetings this season. Each scored in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship, two games that knocked Vancouver out of the running for a Champions League spot and opened the door for Montreal's stirring success in that competition. There's also Tony Donatelli, the midfielder whom the Caps flipped for Gbeke in late June. It's a good bet that one of those five players will play the role of match-winner this weekend. As a sign of how much things have changed, it was Testo and Gjertsen who set up Donatelli for a crucial 2-0 goal in that 2006 title game. "Once Tony got here, Dave and I both talked about that -- how much similarity there was between the Impact this year and the Whitecaps two years ago," said Gjertsen, who had one goal and five assists in league play this season. "From our side, Tony has the strongest feelings [toward Vancouver]. But for me, these games are so big, and this stuff just adds to it." mweber@theprovince.com © The Vancouver Province 2008