Arrival of forward's new bride will make life complete
By Marc Weber
Bob Lenarduzzi denied official involvement in the office paunch pool, but the Whitecaps president was willing to admit the topic of Charles Gbeke's gut surfaced this offseason.
"I wasn't part of that process, but it was discussed," Lenarduzzi said. "Certainly, the feeling was ... well, we were leaning towards him coming back in not the best of shape."
Gbeke, the Caps' big forward who played hero with a double in last season's championship game, married the 25-year-old Brazilian love of his life -- Juliane Alves Lima Gbeke -- in December.
There was, of course, plenty of food and a relaxing honeymoon in the southern city of Laranjeiras do Sul. But, all parties are pleased to report, there is no wedding weight to shed.
It would have showed Monday as coach Teitur Thordarson put the squad through a grueling post-practice fitness session.
"The office people were betting about my weight, so they were happy I didn't gain any extra," the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Gbeke said.
"I was staying with my mother-in-law in Brazil and she makes sure I get my greens, makes sure I don't get too out of proportion."
Proportionally speaking, Gbeke will need to bear a bigger scoring load this season with the departure of 12-goal man Eduardo Sebrango, who joined the Montreal Impact. Gbeke scored three times in 14 regular-season games last year after coming over from the Impact, although he has a knack for timely tallies.
Part of the challenge will be to form a strong partnership with recently-signed St. Vincent striker Marlon James, who twice led the Malaysian Super League in goals.
Gbeke and Sebrango are close from their Montreal days.
"Eddie and I loved to be together," he said. "I had a lot of respect for him. Marlon and I, I think we need to get to know each other and talk about things -- not footballs -- just get to know each other and build a chemistry. I'm going to try and build something here with Marlon. It's a big component."
The Ivory Coast-born forward believes a title repeat is possible and raved about the addition of Liberian-American Ansu Toure, the winger bought from USL-1 rival Miami FC.
"I think we're going to be great," he said. "I love to play with Ansu and I notice our team is really fast, their first intention is crossing and I try to put my big head on the ball in the box. I like that."
New bride Juliane will move here in late March and study English from scratch. It's a situation Gbeke knows all about as he spent 2000 and '01 playing in Brazil with no prior Portuguese.
Gbeke said: "I can't wait for her to be here and she's excited about learning."
The couple met while Gbeke was doing aid work in Brazil. He's now a World Vision Canada spokesman in Vancouver and spent time after his honeymoon helping out children in Laranjeiras do Sul.
- The Whitecaps quest to sign fresh Canadian talent continues as 19-year-old midfielder Derek Gaudet joined training this week as the latest homegrown trialist.
Vancouver forward Marcus Haber, 20, signed with the USL-1 side last week and youngsters Keegan Ayre of Coquitlam and Michael Nonni of West Vancouver are still in the mix.
Ayre was sleeping on an offer to join the residency program, while Thordarson said Nonni's fate was still being determined.
Gaudet was recently cut by Toronto FC after appearing in one game last season.
Nova Scotia native Gaudet is part of the Canadian squad working towards FIFA U20 World Cup qualification.
"It's a great opportunity to train at a high level, compete at a high level," he said. "It's a very good squad, professionally run."
Thordarson said: "I've heard a lot of good things about him."
- Canadian international defender Marco Reda of Woodbridge, Ont., was still on trial with the Caps on Monday, though no decision on the 30-year-old former Charleston Battery captain had been made, said Thordarson. Likely, though, it's simply a case of negotiation with Reda, who's been capped seven times.
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