BY KENT GILCHRIST
A guy with a funny name and funnier accent is on the threshold of winning his second North American soccer championship and he hasn't even been on the continent 24 months.
Teitur Thordarson of Iceland was selected as the Vancouver Whitecaps United Soccer Leagues coach in December of 2007, promptly won the USL title last year with a veteran-loaded team, jettisoned half the starters and is back two games away from repeating with a mix of veterans and a bunch of kids. Thordarson had never set foot on Canadian soil until after beginning negotiations with Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi less than two years ago.
The defending champion but seventh-seeded Caps eliminated the Portland Timbers on Sunday and will play the Montreal Impact in the home-and-home championship games.
"He deserves a ton of credit," said captain Martin Nash, who has won two USL titles with Rochester and two with Vancouver [2006 and 2008]. "I was a bit skeptical myself.
"But he kept drilling his style and philosophy and we watched a lot of film. It took a bit of time with all the changes, but he made it work. We went through some turmoil. We dealt with it and stuck together. We're a tough team to beat. There's no reason why we can't win the title."
Thordarson won last year despite philosophical differences with veterans Jeff Clarke, Steve Kindel, Alfredo Valente and Jason Jordan. Not surprisingly, the coach won the debate shortly after the championship celebration. Another vet, Cuban-born Eduardo Sebrango, who was originally signed by the Montreal Impact in 2002, was granted his wish to return. Sebrango scored the series-clinching goal for the Impact on Sunday, making the championship series all-Canadian. The first game is Saturday at Swangard.
Thordarson admitted Monday there'd be great satisfaction if his younger group prevailed:
"It's nice to see they've responded to the pressure."
He was speaking of 18-year-olds Randy Edwini-Bonsu and Ethan Gage; Marcus Haber, 20, who has scored eight goals; and Luca Bellisomo, Wes Knight and Tyrell Burgess, all 23. They faced down the Timbers in front of 14,000 fans.
The Whitecaps are building towards their 2011 entry into the MLS. The players on the roster should consider this a two-year audition. The more youth Thordarson can introduce to the senior team the better.
Of the 26 players the Seattle Sounders had on their 2008 USL roster, six are still with the Sounders MLS team.
Lenarduzzi would like the Whitecaps to have more.
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