It's Miami Twice, starring United Soccer Leagues' First Division MVP candidate Joey Gjertsen and fellow Vancouver Whitecap "Steady Eddie" Sebrango against Miami FC and aging Brazilian superstar Romario.
The two-game, total-goals series opens Friday at evergreen-lined Swangard Stadium (7 p.m. AM 730) and ends Sunday amid the palm trees of Tropical Park (3 p.m. AM 730). The winner meets the Montreal Impact next week.
Romario, who shared the league lead with 18 goals, isn't the only scoring threat. Zinho assisted eight goals and Guatemalan international Mario Rodriguez scored seven for the fifth-place expansion team.
Fourth-place Whitecaps, 8-1-5 at home, are hoping to exploit Miami's jet lag. The teams tied 2-2 in June when Romario and Vancouver's Steve Kindel traded goals at the end of regulation. Vancouver only won four road matches, including a 3-2 result at Miami in early August.
"They're very explosive, they're going to be a challenge to contain," Vancouver head coach Bob Lilley said. "If we have the ball, we have a lot of weapons."
Whitecaps edged Seattle Sounders, the 2005 league champs, 3-2 on Sept. 8 and shutout Atlanta Silverbacks 1-0 in Sunday's meaningless game. Gjertsen scored singles both nights to end the season with a dozen. Lilley is certain to pair him again with veteran Sebrango, who will be motivated to play before other Cuban expatriates in Miami.
Whitecaps qualified for the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season and have only gone as far as the semifinals four times. To go deep in 2006 will require grueling travel because Vancouver is the only active squad west of the Mississippi River.