Lemon's zest for game undiminished - The Province

Perennially injured defender has shot to salvage season in the final Marc Weber Geordie Lyall has been a lemon this season, but being a part of a USL First Division championship on Sunday would certainly take the sour taste out of his mouth. "It's tough to call this a season for me personally because I've only been a part of a tenth of the games," said the Vancouver Whitecaps' broken-down defender. "So, to be a part of that big game at the end would be salvaging." Actually, Lyall has played in a fifth of the Whitecaps' games, but that doesn't change how trying a season this has been for the affable 10-year veteran. He's endured injury-plagued seasons before -- torn knee ligaments ended his 2001 season and he missed the first half of 2002 with a bad hamstring -- but this year has been a whole new level of frustration. Since training camp, he's battled a tight lower back that's led to a list of leg injuries long enough to make an enterprising ICBC claimant jealous. Lyall played just 312 minutes in six games this regular season, and when he worked his way back for the playoffs, he lasted a game-and-a-half, pulling his right hamstring in the opening round against Minnesota. Lyall missed out on the Montreal semifinal series and hasn't trained this week, but head coach Teitur Thordarson said that with medical clearance he wouldn't hesitate to dress the Victoria native against the Puerto Rico Islanders in Sunday's final. In 2006, when the Whitecaps won it all, the speedy Lyall was anything but a spare part. He started all five playoff games, made the first all-star team and was nominated for USL-1 defender of the year. "We know what he will bring," said Thordarson, who would most likely use Lyall at right back. "He's been in these kinds of situations before, he is tactically very good and his measurement of risk is good -- what to do in situations, when to hold back, when to clear." Thordarson has started Lyall when coming off an injury before this season, so that see-what-you-can-get-from-him strategy can't be ruled out. Lyle Martin would then be the odd man out, or he'd displace Justin Moose on the right wing. Lyall simply expressed a desire to contribute. "Just to get some time would be great," he said. "Just to be on the 18, to be a part of it. "I'm going to give it a couple more days' rest and then train Saturday. Then a lot of anti-inflams and be ready for Sunday." Having gone through such a painful campaign, Lyall -- who turned 32 last month -- admitted to thinking a lot about retirement. But in some ways, he said, this year makes him want to come back even more. "I don't know if I want to end my career on a year like this year," he said. "I've got some decisions to make. Basically [after the season] I'm going to do nothing for a month and hopefully the back settles down." Another championship would help keep that engine running, too. mweber@theprovince.com USL DIVISION 1 FINAL Whitecaps vs. Puerto Rico When: Sunday, 4 p.m. Where: Swangard Stadium Radio: TEAM1040; TV: Fox Sports World Canada © The Vancouver Province 2008