It's been a tumultous season for the Vancouver Whitecaps. They entered as defending USL-1 champions, but had substantial offseason turnover and decided to go with a youth movement to build towards their 2011 MLS entrance. Off the field, they've been dealing with issues surrounding both the construction of a retractable roof on B.C. Place and the transfer of USL-1 ownership to a new group. On the field, they struggled initially in the league, but made a great run in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship and were set to claim its associated berth in the CONCACAF Champions League. Of course, that was before Montreal rolled over and played dead in the final game, allowing Toronto FC to come away with a 6-1 victory on the road and the necessary goal differential to claim the trophy.
That loss thanks to factors out of their control seemed to inspire the team, though. The made a tremendous stretch run and snuck into the final USL-1 playoff spot. They then upset the first and second-ranked teams in the playoffs (Portland and Carolina) to clinch a revenge match against Montreal in the final. The stage seemed set for their second straight USL-1 championship and a glorious ending to a disappointing season.
Last week in the first leg, an unexpected twist showed up. Montreal came away with a 3-2 victory on the road, and the Whitecaps lost captain Martin Nash to a red card, making him unavailable for today's match. Now, their backs are against the wall. Fortunately for them, away goals have no particular importance in the USL, so Vancouver could force overtime with just a 1-0 win. That's still going to be tough, though.
Don't write the Whitecaps off yet, though. For one thing, they have perhaps the most lethal group of forwards in the league, including USL-1 goalscoring leader Charles Gbeke, the talented Marlon James, speed demon Randy Edwini-Bonsu and rookie sensation Marcus Haber. As Haber said after last week's game, being down a goal isn't as big of a concern with this side as it might be with other teams.
"We're confident in our group that we're going to score goals," he said.
For another, they've got plenty of motivation, and for another, they've always stepped up when faced with adversity. Head coach Teitur Thordarson said after the game last week he loved his team's play in the second half, despite being down a man.
"I was unhappy with the first half, but the second half was fantastic," he said. "The guys stepped up; they didn't quit."
Thordarson said that never-say-die attitude may pay dividends today.
"If we go to Montreal with that attitude, anything can happen," he said. "We have shown that we can win there. We've done it this year."
Thordarson said no one should write his team off yet.
"We're not out of this."
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