By Marc Weber
He might not be Canadian, but you won't find a Whitecap more wired than Marlon James for tonight's cross-country clash with Toronto FC as the Nutrilite Canadian Championship begins (5 p.m., Sportsnet).
James loves the spotlight. Loves the big stage. He's heard about the atmosphere at BMO Field and he knows, of course, this one is on national TV.
"Yeah, I do think I play my best in the big games," said the St. Vincent and the Grenadines forward who led the Malaysian Super League in scoring last season. "I get focussed even more for these games and I'm really looking forward to it."
James was hugely disappointed to miss the Whitecaps home and season opener against Charleston with an ankle injury because, as he said, it was "a big occasion."
With Kedah FC over two seasons he played in Malaysian Cup finals, Malaysian FA Cup finals, Super League title games and Sultan Cup clashes with the Singapore national team. Many of those matches were in front of 80,000 fans, as was St. Vincent and the Grenadine's 1996 clash with Mexico when James was a relative rookie on the international scene.
In 2007, in front of 100,000 fans at Kuala Lumpur's Bukit Jalil National Stadium, he tallied twice in a 3-0 win over Perak FA for the Malaysian Cup. He's also scored four times in 10 World Cup qualifier games for St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
James is coming off a hat trick Saturday in Minnesota. His first was a great 1-2 passing play with Charles Gbeke. His second showed off his power and finish — a 40-yard run while fending off a fullback, followed by a hard left-footed strike to the far post. His third was a penalty kick that won the game in the 90th.
"I think the whole group is getting more confident with each other," he said. "I'm happy to be playing and feel I'm getting into the system of the team."
Of concern for James and the Whitecaps, however, is the fact his ankle was bothering him in training at BMO Field on Monday and Tuesday. BMO is a turf surface.
"It's been nagging a little," he said. "It's not quite suitable for the turf at the moment. I'm just icing it and we'll see how it feels [Wednesday]."
So, James might only have 45 minutes to make his mark on the game before giving way to Marcus Haber.
"He's definitely going to start but I don't know how deep into the game he can go," said head coach Teitur Thordarson.