Gbeke's header comes as substitute paces sideline
By Marc Weber
Lady Luck didn't appear in her most obvious form Sunday at Swangard Stadium. There was no timely penalty or well-positioned free kick to help out a Vancouver Whitecaps team that's felt hard done by in recent weeks.
But there was a subtle moment of fortune that featured big in an important 2-0 win over Miami FC.
Charles Gbeke's masterful, long-distance header back across goal in the 80th minute lifted Vancouver six points clear of Miami for the seventh and final playoff spot in USL-1.
He scored it while a fresh, fizzing Randy Edwini-Bonsu waited on the sideline, ready to replace him at the next opportunity.
"We had made the decision, but we said to the official, 'Just wait a little bit,'" said head coach Teitur Thordarson. "Both of them [starting forwards Gbeke and Marcus Haber] felt exhausted."
Whether Thordarson was slyly trying to take a little credit for Gbeke's goal doesn't matter much. Edwini-Bonsu made his boss look even smarter in time added on. Having finally come on for Haber in the 90th, the residency rabbit sped down the left flank, beat his man, and unselfishly served Gbeke his second goal on a platter.
"It's relief," Gbeke said of the victory, "but, at the same time, we've been playing well lately, just not getting the breaks. I thought in the first half we did enough, but the last pass wasn't there."
It was there on the opener, with substitute Gordon Chin setting up the goal with a long, looping cross five minutes after entering the game.
It was a deserved win in front of 5,288 fans -- the club's eighth straight sell-out -- but not a vintage home performance for the Whitecaps under Thordarson.
Both teams, in fact, lacked spunk for much of the game. Miami had played in Portland, Ore., the night before, though they did make nine lineup changes. Vancouver, meanwhile, was playing its fourth game in nine days.
They'll have two days off this week as they don't play again until hosting Rochester on Saturday. Vancouver, one point back of Montreal for sixth, can still catch the Rhinos for fifth.
"It's been a tough stretch," said Thordarson. "I understand they felt tired today, but I'm impressed with how they played.
"We've been struggling with [finish] lately so I was happy to see the first one go in, and even happier to see the second."
Miami threatened with a brief flourish around the 60th minute, and Vancouver needed a goal line clearance from midfielder Nizar Khalfan to keep things scoreless.
Jay Nolly was only called on to make one tough save for his seventh shutout as the addition of steady centre backs Chris Pozniak and Shaun Pejic continues to pay dividends.
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