BY MARC WEBER
Even 7,600 kilometres away, pursuing his soccer dream in England, Marcus Haber admits last year's bitter end to the Nutrilite Canadian Championship wasn't completely out of his mind.
There's no lack of motivation then for Haber on this two-month loan spell from English Championship side West Bromwich Albion to the Whitecaps.
The 21-year-old Vancouverite will be with his old team until June 15.
The Nutrilite tournament -- a six-game series between Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal that determines Canada's entry into the CONCACAF Champions League -- runs May 5 to June 2.
"I'd be lying if I told you it wasn't on my mind sometimes," Haber said of the cruel manner in which Vancouver missed out on last year's Champions League berth (watching Toronto beat Montreal 6-1 to advance on goal differential). "The Nutrilite is sort of the mini-season for me here. It's definitely huge motivation, especially with last season and the disappointment we had."
It's also the time of the season the Whitecaps will most need Haber's help. Split between USSF D-2 league play and the Nutrilite, they play 11 games in a month.
With the departure of Haber (eight league goals in 2009) and Charles Gbeke (12 goals) this offseason, the Caps were left thin at forward.
"There are so many games over that time," head coach Teitur Thordarson said. "It is a huge addition for us to have him in the group. We know what he can bring to it when he's at his best."
In January, the Whitecaps transferred Haber to West Brom, where he signed an 18-month deal.
Haber spent a month on loan to League One side Exeter City and didn't score in five appearances. Last week he scored his first goal for West Brom's reserves.
The Caps contacted West Brom about a possible return and Baggies' technical director Dan Ashworth approached Haber with the idea.
"It didn't take me long to make up my mind," Haber said. "I thought it was a good idea and he thought it was a good idea to play in the offseason and keep my fitness up and remain sharp. Preseason [in June] is really going to be a big moment for me in terms of West Brom."
As for the potential longer-term implications of this move, with West Brom Premier League-bound and the Whitecaps moving to Major League Soccer in 2011, Haber said simply: "I can only look at the near future, which is two months with the Whitecaps and then next season with West Brom."
Haber wasn't available for Sunday's opener but will travel with the team to Miami this weekend.
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