Top scorer signs with Impact to be closer to kids
Eduardo Sebrango stripped off his jersey seconds after the Vancouver Whitecaps beat Puerto Rico for the USL-1 title a month ago.
He wanted everyone to see his handiwork -- the names of his kids, eight-year-old Gaby and six-year-old Donovan, written in marker on his undershirt, a giant red heart in the middle.
"I no see them very much," the Cuban forward said that night.
"I told them that I want to do something special for them and I want to say that Daddy loves them very much." On Wednesday, Sebrango signed on for two years with his former team and Vancouver's main rival, the Montreal Impact, moving closer to his Ottawa home and, more importantly, within a three-hour drive of his kids in Kingston, Ont.
"My last visit to see them, in July or August, I realized I have to be there," said Sebrango, who is divorced. "[Seeing them every two months] is not good enough.
I even looked at options to coach [in Ottawa], to retire and coach." It's a move that's understandable to the Whitecaps, admired by some, but it's a move that leaves them heartbroken, even though Sebrango will be 36 next season. They will miss him as much as he missed his kids, and not just for his team-leading 12 goals, six of them game-winners.
"He's probably the best professional I've played with," said longtime Whitecap Alfredo Valente. "His attitude, his mentality and how he performs. I don't even know how old he is, but he seems like he's 25." "It leaves a huge hole that's going to be difficult to fill," added veteran midfielder Martin Nash.
"He's been one of the best strikers in this league for the last seven or eight years and the experience and what he brings to the team is almost irreplaceable.
"We all thought he should have been the league MVP this year." Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi said the move didn't come as a huge surprise. It did happen swiftly though, with Sebrango talking to Montreal only a few days ago and the Whitecaps apparently countering with a comparable offer.
"There's no point in dwelling on it," said Lenarduzzi, who brought Sebrango over from Montreal in 2006 and, after an injury-plagued 2007 campaign, signed him to a one-year deal.
"We'll actively look to replace the production that we lose. I don't think you could find a more consummate professional. If you ever want an example of what younger players should aspire towards, he's the perfect example of that." Bringing back finals hero Charles Gbeke was already a priority for the Whitecaps, and 18-year-old residency forwards Randy Edwini-Bonsu and Dever Orgill will play bigger roles, but the club needs another proven scorer.
Malaysian league sensation Marlon James visited Vancouver after a deal to play here in 2008 fell through, and the Whitecaps could get into a bidding war for the St. Vincentian's services with San Jose of MLS.
Sebrango, who was introduced in Montreal alongside talented former Minnesota Thunder midfielder Stephen deRoux, sent flowers to the Whitecaps' office Wednesday.
"When you win two championships in three years you build special relationships," he said.
"I love Vancouver -- the city, the air, my teammates. It's been unreal."
© The Vancouver Province 2008