By BOB MACKIN
Vancouver Whitecaps’ striker Charles Gbeke was the only United Soccer Leagues’ player named Monday to Canada’s 23-man roster for July’s CONCACAF Gold Cup in the United States.
“It’s a matter of trying to get the balance right,” interim head coach Stephen Hart said. “We were in a situation where we’re not blessed with depth up front and Charles would give us something different.”
Gbeke is an Ivory Coast native who was raised in Montreal. He was named most valuable player of last October’s USL First Division championship when he scored both Vancouver goals in the Whitecaps’ 2-1 win over the Puerto Rico Islanders. Gbeke, however, is serving a two-game suspension for a June 12 ejection after an on-field fight with teammate Wesley Charles.
“His ability here, that was looked at,” Hart said. “It’s unfortunate what happened and he got a suspension. Those things happen in the game.”
Hart will gather with players in Los Angeles this week and cut three before Canada opens the 12-team tournament July 3 against Jamaica. Canada’s other first round opponents are El Salvador on July 7 in Columbus, Ohio and Costa Rica on July 10 in Miami. The tournament concludes with the July 26 final in New York. Canada beat Colombia in 2000 at Los Angeles for its only Gold Cup championship.
Goalkeeper Greg Sutton, who was released earlier this month by Toronto FC, is joined by Kenny Stamatopoulos and Josh Wagenaar. Stamatopoulos is playing for FC Lyn Oslo in Norway and Wagenaar is attached to Yeovil Town in England. Hart hasn’t decided who will start.
“I haven’t seen them enough to make that decision,” Hart said. “Quite frankly that goes for all the players.”
The roster is notable for those missing. Toronto FC captain Jim Brennan said last October he was quitting the national team. His club teammate Dwayne De Rosario declined Hart’s Gold Cup invitation.
“People have genuine reasons as to why they didn’t want to be there,” Hart said. “I’m of course disappointed in one way, but at the end of the day, I think it opens opportunities for the players to experience a tournament like this. Canada will be looking at a new sort of squad going into the next three to four years.”
Other players with B.C. ties include Vancouver’s Kevin Harmse, a former Whitecaps' defender and midfielder with Toronto FC, and Prince George-born, Inverness, Scotland defender Richard Hastings. Hart’s assistant is former Whitecaps’ coach Tony Fonseca. Goalkeeper coach Paul Dolan was a longtime Vancouver 86ers’ netminder who backstopped Canada in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. The team enters the tournament without an international friendly, but only one closed-door scrimmage.