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Out of playoffs, Whitecaps' final game still has intrigue

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The Canadian Press
10/23/2013 7:23:15 PM
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VANCOUVER -- Despite having their post-season hopes dashed last weekend, the Vancouver Whitecaps' 2013 season finale still holds some intrigue.

Sunday's game against the Colorado Rapids at B.C. Place Stadium has important implications in determining Major League Soccer's playoff picture and will also mark the final game in the career of veteran South Korean defender Young-Pyo Lee.

Oh, and star forward Camilo Sanvezzo is still in the running for the Golden Boot as the league's top scorer.

"We want to make sure we win. I think our fans are coming out expecting that," said Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie after Wednesday's training session. "I think other teams in our conference are expecting that because there is some significance to the game."

The Rapids ended Vancouver's playoff hopes on Saturday with a 3-2 victory, thanks to two goals from Gabriel Torres.

The defeat marked a disappointing end to a season that saw the Whitecaps record more wins and earn more points than the 2012 edition that qualified for the playoffs.

"Ultimately we go out there and we play, because that's what we do," said Vancouver captain Jay DeMerit, who is without a contract for next season. "We've got to make sure we go out there and we give it our best shot, because anything less would be disappointing."

The loss in Commerce City, Colo., also signalled that Sunday will be the final time Lee walks out onto a field as a professional.

The veteran of three World Cups for South Korea joined the Whitecaps in 2011 after stints in Asia and Europe and was named the club's player of the year last season.

"It will be the most memorable game of my life," said Lee, 36, who is set to join Vancouver's front office. "I feel sad, and then I feel happy.

"I never thought I could retire in this situation," he added. "So many players get (told to) retire by someone, but I chose all myself when to retire."

DeMerit said Lee will leave a lasting impression.

"You're never too old for work ethic," he said. "His consistent performance for us for his whole time here has been nothing short of impressive. You always know what you're going to get from him."

Sanvezzo, who was named the Whitecaps' player of the year at a ceremony on Wednesday morning, has 19 MLS goals so far in 2013, just one behind both Mike Magee of the Chicago Fire and the Montreal Impact's Marco Di Vaio.

The Brazilian-born Sanvezzo has downplayed his goal scoring this season and instead focused on the team results, but with Vancouver now out of the playoffs, will his teammates be trying to set him up even more than usual?

"I hope so," he said with a laugh. "It would mean a lot. (When) you're a striker you always want to be the top scorer."

Rennie said that he wants to focus on winning Sunday's game, but added that finding Sanvezzo will probably be on the players' minds.

"He's probably our most natural finisher. He's always a goal threat. He's scored a lot of goals at B.C. Place so it would be great if he could get on the scoresheet more than once," said Rennie. "It would be fantastic if he could end up being the top goal scorer MLS. That would be another massive milestone for the club."

Meanwhile, Whitecaps general manager Bob Lenarduzzi said this week that Rennie's future will be decided soon.

The Scotsman, who has been with the club since 2011, said he has helped the club make significant progress in his two years, including last season's playoff berth.

"When I came here this team was the worst team in MLS, it was in disarray and it was almost irrelevant in Vancouver," said Rennie. "Now it's a very relevant team and it's poised to be a great team."

Notes: Colorado can finish anywhere from first place to fifth place in the Western Conference, depending on Sunday's game and the other results across the league. ... Sanvezzo was also named Vancouver's top overall goal scorer in 2013 on Wednesday. Carlyle Mitchell was named as the team's unsung hero, while fellow defender Jordan Harvey took home humanitarian of the year honours.

Camilo (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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