BY GARY KINGSTON
On a night when Marlon James finally returned to the pitch, the Vancouver Whitecaps found they didn't really need the striker from St. Vincent and the Grenadines to score more than two goals in a USL First Division Game.
They just needed a case of the Blues.
Charles Gbeke scored twice on headers and set up another goal with his noggin as Vancouver beat the struggling Miami FC Blues 3-2 in a game that ended in bizarre fashion with Gbeke and teammate Wesley Charles both red-carded after angrily rushing each other at midfield in the 85th minute.
It was only the second time in 10 regular season games that the Whitecaps have scored more than one goal. The only other time came in Minnesota on May 2 when James scored all three goals in a 3-2 Vancouver win.
But the goal outburst and the 4-4-2 'Caps first win in four league games was overshadowed by the outburst from the two of their more tempermental and emotional players.
It appeared the two had screamed at each other after Gbeke and James had messed up a two-on-one break a minute earlier. Charles ran 20 yards to meet Gbeke who responded with fists flailing.
"I didn't hear anything, so I don't know yet what happened," said Vancouver head coach Teiter Thordarson. "But I'm very disappointed. I just can't believe what was going on."
It certainly shocked the crowd of 5,288.
"It is unnormal behavior from two grown people out on the football field, in front of not only their own teammates, [but] the whole club, the whole spectators and the whole city," said Thordarson. "I just feel it's a disgrace."
As a result of the red cards, both Charles and Gbeke, who was the best player on the pitch Friday, will miss the 'Caps next contest in Montreal on June 20.
It was an eventful game all around at Swangard, with terrific goals of headers, controversial calls and a red card to explosive Miami midfielder Leo Nunes that left the Blues with just 10 men the entire second half.
The Blues, shutout in their last four league games, surprised Vancouver - and perhaps, themselves - early by scoring in the 10th minute. After Zourab Tsiskaridze's rocket of a free kick from 30 yards was deflected over the cross bar by 'Caps goalkeeper Jay Nolly, the shaved-head defender scored off the ensuing corner kick, his header going inside the far post, which Vancouver defender Wes Knight had inexplicably vacated.
Knight partially redeemed himself six minutes later when his long throw-in from the right sideline made it all the way into the box. Gbeke went up and nodded it into the short side past goalkeeper Kenny Schoeni.
In the 34th minute, Gbeke was credited with his second goal when the ball found the back of the net after he and Schoeni went high for a Knight cross. The Blues were livid as it appeared the ball went in off the outstretched arms of Schoeni as Gbeke made contact with the 'keeper while trying to get his head on the ball.
Nunes was yellow-carded for dissent, then sent off in first-half injury time after picking up another yellow for bumping 'Caps captain Martin Nash with a forearm in a scuffle at midfield. Nash also received a yellow for diving.
James, who because of ankle and hamstring injuries had seen action in only three of the 'Caps first nine games, came on in the 62nd minute and looked dangrous at times. But it was central defender Marco Reda who got the 3-1 goal. Gbeke flicked on a Martin Nash corner with his head and the ball went in off Reda's left thigh.
The Blues, now 2-5-1, made things interesting two minutes later when Richard Perdomo dove to head the ball in after it rebounded off the post on a free kick. But not as intriguing as the Charles/Gbeke clash.
"I'm very satisfied with the three points," said Thordarson. "The group is working very hard, but you can almost say we forget these three points when we see what happened in the ending."
In the earlier women's game, Vancouver posted its fourth tie in four games, a 0-0 draw with the Los Angeles Legends.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun