By Ian Walker
VANCOUVER — It was a successful return to the pitch all the way around for the Vancouver Whitecaps on Thursday. Not only did the Whitecaps come back from a two-week hiatus with a well-deserved 4-0 victory over the visiting Minnesota Thunder, but just as impressively, everyone on the team got along.
It's a sad, but true commentary on what can only be described as a disappointing first three months for the defending United Soccer Leagues First Division champions. Vancouver was desperate for a victory after going winless in its last three games — a streak that dates back to a well-publicized squabble between teammates Wesley Charles and Charles Gbeke — and owned a lousy 1-5 record in its previous six league encounters.
Charles and Gbeke, who made their return to the lineup after serving two-game suspensions for an in-game scrap against Miami FC on June 12, came out of the tunnel together holding a Whitecaps fan and did a lap around the field prior to the opening kick. It was a symbolic gesture not lost on the sold-out Swangard Stadium crowd of 5,568.
"It was sincere, we wanted to do that for the fans," said Gbeke, who scored his fourth of the season in the 79th minute to give Vancouver a 3-0 lead. "We talked about it [after the incident] and everything is fine."
Marcus Haber in the 80th minute, Martin Nash in the 71st and Lyle Martin in the seventh accounted for the game's other scoring. Jay Nolly earned his fourth shutout of the season.
Much to be expected, Vancouver pressed the league's basement dwellers from the start, with rookie Tyrell Burgess creating a pair of scoring opportunities before the game was three minutes old.
Fans were witness to slower play for the first 20 minutes of the second half, but Nash's penalty shot goal opened the floodgates. The PA announcer hadn't even announced Gbeke's goal before Haber added his fourth of the season.
"It was very important to come out with a good effort with everything that's gone on," said Martin, who did a nice job of corralling Nash's volley before beating Thunder goalkeeper Nic Platter low to the left post. "A game like that and everybody forgets about all that other stuff."
It was the first time Vancouver had scored four goals in a game since the 2006 season and it was the side's biggest win since July 9, 2005 — a 4-0 home decision over the Portland Timbers.
Head coach Teitur Thordarson said his team was full-value for the victory, a good sign as the team departs today for a two-game eastern road trip.
"We struggled to get results in the first half so the timing was good as we head out on the road," said Thordarson.
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