Dream season continues for Caps - The Province

Kent Gilchrist As the Vancouver Whitecaps were sculpting their United Soccer League semifinal playoff comeback, there were dueling radio broadcasts on either side of the tiny Swangard Stadium press box. On the left was Montreal Impact play-by-play broadcaster Brian Wilde's voice that grew more urgently strident as the second-half minutes ticked inexorably by while on the right Team 1040's Peter Schaad and Joey Kenward sounded increasingly smug, almost as if they had something to do with the Caps' dominating comeback. The competing broadcasts were the furthest thing from stereo. "The Impact are going to have to press for a goal here," urged Wilde when there were about 30 minutes left in the game and the Whitecaps in front 2-1 on aggregate and 2-0 in a game where Eddie Sebrango should have scored three or four instead of the singleton winner he did get, "but quite honestly, they haven't been able to penetrate." A couple of minutes after substitute goaltender Tyler Baldock had stopped David Testo cold from 15 feet on the only real dangerous second-half Montreal chance, Wilde said, sadly: "Only eight minutes left to the end of the Montreal season." Schaad and Kenward were more matter-of-fact and quieter, knowing their USL playoff season, like that of the Whitecaps, was still a championship game away. No matter what happens from here, it has been a particularly fine year for the Whitecaps, especially after the disappointment of last season when so much was expected. The Whitecaps, who won the USL in 2006, were only seventh last year and eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, which led to the firing of coach Bob Lilley. The Whitecaps drew 89,632 fans to Swangard this season (not counting Sunday's 4,992) to set an attendance record. "That first half," said Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi, who made the decision to change coaches, "was as good as we've played all year." Iceland's Teitur Thordarson, who replaced Lilley, introduced an attractive, attacking style of soccer and the Caps responded by finishing second to Puerto Rico with 15 wins to seven losses and, best of all, 34 goals scored. Sunday, because of an earlier red card to regular 'keeper Jay Nolly, the rookie Baldock had to make his first start. While he wasn't busy, he was there when needed in recording a shutout in his first game. "We haven't suffered too much by the red card [to his starting goaltender in Friday's loss in Montreal]," said the understated Thordarson, who is best known for his offensive coaching style, but seemed as pleased with the way the Caps rallied around and put in such a strong defensive showing. "I'm very happy for the boys, they did a fantastic job and I'm happy for the club." Besides the successful season, an MLS expansion franchise seems closer now than it ever has before. The Seattle Sounders will become the 15th team next season while Vancouver and Montreal, who met for the seventh time this year, have applied for entry for the 2011 season. It is expected Portland and St. Louis, which was passed over in favour of Philadelphia, will also be applying for 2011. "It makes sense to me they'd accept both (Vancouver and Montreal)," said Lenarduzzi. "I can't imagine any bids better." But the best news -- besides the win, of course -- was that the league had awarded the championship game to Vancouver even though the Islanders finished first and beat Rochester in the other semifinal. The reason was that Vancouver fulfilled more of the league requirements than Puerto Rico. hkgilchrist@yahoo.com © The Vancouver Province 2008