Sad ending to season of headaches

BOB MACKIN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

There will be a new United Soccer Leagues First Division champion because the Vancouver Whitecaps couldn't resolve their goalscoring and goalkeeping woes.

The Whitecaps edged the visiting Portland Timbers 1-0 on Friday, but lost the two-game, total goals quarterfinal series Sunday in Portland when ex-Whitecap Josh Wicks registered a 3-0 shutout.

"It mirrored the second half of the season," said Whitecaps head coach Bob Lilley.

The 9-7-12, seventh-place Whitecaps had a chaotic year after they did everything right to win their first title in 2006.

"Credit goes to players for not making excuses," Lilley said. "There's no doubt that when we started to struggle, it was losing [Eduardo Sebrango's] goalscoring but also [Tony] Caig's departure and injuries to a number of key players during that stretch."

Ace goalkeeper Caig quit in mid-June and returned to England for family matters. The shock announcement foreshadowed a club-record 12-game winless streak. Vancouver traded 2006 MVP Joey Gjertsen and David Testo in desperation to the Montreal Impact for Surrey's Alen Marcina and Brazil's Ze Roberto and also acquired California Victory scoring leader Josh Hansen. Marcina had a goal and an assist; Roberto and Hansen were pointless.

The Whitecaps scored only 27 times in 28 games. Sebrango was Vancouver's leading scorer with seven goals, despite missing a dozen games with a foot injury. Lilley tried Richard Goddard and Lutz Pfannenstiel before goalkeeper Matt Nelson arrived on loan from the second division Harrisburg City Islanders in late August. Nelson allowed only one goal in two wins and two ties before Sunday's embarrassment.

Lilley meets with players on Thursday and will also meet with president Bob Lenarduzzi to seek a new contract.

The team hosts a B.C. Place Stadium friendly on a November date to be announced against David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy.


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