By IAN WALKER
VANCOUVER — Wes Knight holds the distinction of being the only soccer player in South Carolina history to score a goal from a throw in. Or so the story goes.
Well, haters be damned. The Whitecap defender continued to build credence for his high school feat with his fifth assist of the season by way of his upper appendages in Vancouver's 3-2 win over the expansion Austin Aztex on Wednesday night at Swangard Stadium.
"I think I'm making believers out of some people," chuckled Knight, a native of Easley, S.C., who played his college soccer at the College of Charleston. "with a laugh. "Seriously, people scoff when they hear it at first, but after they hear the scenario it's a little more believable. High school soccer in South Carolina is just horrible and I threw the ball in on net and you know how guys were coming in and the keeper comes out and it just went threw everybody and over the goalie's hands."
While the Whitecaps were full value in terms of entertainment, the result didn't come easy. Twice Austin fought back from a two goal deficit to keep the nearly sold-out crowd of 5,081 on edge all night. Trailing 2-1 at the half, the Aztex pressed Vancouver after the break and were carrying the play until Charles Gbeke headed Takashi Hirano's cross past Aztex goalkeeper Nick Noble in the 65th minute. The goal was Gbeke's second of the night and vaulted him into a tie for the league's goal scoring lead with 11 on the season.
"It's all about my teammates," said Gbeke, who has scored in four straight games and has six of Vancouver's last seven goals after starting the season goalless in his first six contest. "I was fighting it early in the year and now I'm just doing my job. You have to give a lot of credit to my teammates."
Kenold Versailles opened the scoring, heading home Knight's throw-in from 20 yards down the line to give the Whitecaps the early lead. Gbeke put Vancouver up by two in the 23rd minute before Jean Alexandre countered with a boot from 30 yards out in the 34th minute. Alexandre added his second of the night in the 76th minute to make the score 3-2, but Austin would get no closer. Good thing, too.
The game was a must-win for the Whitecaps (9-9-8), who managed to keep pace with the fifth-place Montreal Impact with the victory. Montreal (10-10-6), who hold a one-point lead over Vancouver in the United Soccer Leagues First Division standings, downed the Carolina Rail Hawks 1-0 earlier in the evening.
"It was very important — very important," said head coach Teitir Thordarson.
Versailles got the start, his second of the season, in place of midfielder Martin Nash, who is nursing a sore hamstring. It's only the second time in more than five years that the Whitecaps captain has missed a game to injury.
Vancouver heads on the road for a pair of games before wrapping up the regular season at home with dates against Austin on Sept. 13 and the Cleveland City Stars on Sept. 18.
• Striker Marlon James (groin) trained with the club this week, but was not on the 18-man roster. He and Nash will both travel with the club on the road.
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