Vancouver teammates Gbeke, Charles exchange blows on field
BY MARC WEBER
There was no shortage of adjectives for Vancouver Whitecaps players and management to describe the events of Friday night at Swangard Stadium.
Defender Wesley Charles and forward Charles Gbeke -- two big friendly giants off the pitch who turn into barking fiery giants on it -- almost came to blows at midfield and did fight, at least briefly, in the dressing room area.
Leading Miami FC 3-2 in the 84th minute, Gbeke and Marlon James failed to convert a 2-on-1 break.
Charles (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) and Gbeke (6-2, 210) traded increasingly nasty words over the missed chance, then, suddenly, Charles charged up field toward Gbeke and took a swing before teammates jumped in.
Referee Fabrizio Romano dealt Charles a straight red card and Gbeke, who didn't exactly avoid the confrontation, a yellow.
When Gbeke was subbed off in the 90th minute he violently kicked the water bottles by the bench, which earned him a banishment.
The two-goal man was lustily booed by the stunned sold-out crowd of 5,288 as he stormed into the locker room, and assistant coach Todd Wawrousek and a medical staffer soon gave chase -- the team a little slow to remember that Charles was already in the room.
Team sources said at least a couple of punches were thrown.
Nothing out of the ordinary happened between the two passionate players at practice this week or earlier in the game, according to players.
"I just didn't believe what was going on," said head coach Teitur Thordarson, whose team hung on for a 3-2 win that felt far more like a loss. "It is not normal behaviour from two grown people in front of, not only their own teammates, but the whole club, the whole spectators. I just feel this a disgrace."
Captain Martin Nash also used that word -- disgrace.
"There's going to be some repairing to do," he said.
That process started at a team meeting Saturday morning where Charles and Gbeke apologized to teammates and to each other. Certainly the club will demand a more public show of contrition.
"Of course I regret all that because I let my team down, the fans," Gbeke said Saturday. "There were a lot of emotions going on, and there's nothing I can do about it now except apologize and make sure it doesn't happen again.
"It's embarrassing. I was put in a bad situation and didn't react very well. We've just got to live with the consequences of our actions."
Gbeke must serve a one-game league suspension and Charles, who's twice returned to Ireland on personal leaves this year, possibly more for his straight red. Charles could not be reached for comment.
Fines are certainly forthcoming from the club and that might not be all. President Bob Lenarduzzi, director of professional teams Greg Anderson and Thordarson were set to meet either late Saturday or today to discuss further discipline.
Lenarduzzi, who might as well have the Whitecaps crest tattooed over his heart and who values greatly a family atmosphere at games, was sombre, but seething underneath.
"They both let the team down, let the club down," he said. "I need to find out more but we're not going to brush it under the carpet, I can assure you of that. There's definitely going to be repercussions from this."
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