Photo Credit: WhitecapsFC.com
We have been lucky, Vancouver Whitecaps fans. Yes, given that the boys in Blue and White have missed the playoffs in two if their last three years in MLS, I know that my assertion might seem ridiculous. No, I am not talking about the actual collective results achieved. That is a topic for a different article. Right now, with the bittersweet taste of the final game of the 2013 campaign fresh in my mouth, I want to speak on what was one of the bigger stories of the day: the retirement of Y.P. Lee.
The former Korean international closed out his brilliant career on Sunday night amid a great atmosphere where Vancouver fans set aside their disappointment at being at BC Place one last time in 2013 to ensure that the Lee got the farewell that he deserves. It took Y.P. Lee two short years in Vancouver to establish a lasting legacy and illustrate why he may indeed be the best player that has ever put on a Whitecaps jersey.
When the Whitecaps announced the signing of Lee back in December of 2011, it didn’t take much to realize that despite his age, the team had landed a great player. His resume spoke for itself, stints in England, Germany and Holland and, more importantly, three World Cup appearances planted the seeds of enthusiasm in the hearts of Whitecaps fans.
Despite having to adapt to play as a right back (as opposed to his natural left back position), Lee delivered. He was a step above the rest and it showed when he took the pitch. He was able to adapt his game to the more physical style that dominates MLS. His speed, positioning and experience made up for his lack of size and muscle. He delighted us with some magnificent dribbling skills. He was able to shake away opponents without even having to move the ball. He was able to charge up and down the right flank often delivering dangerous crosses.
His contributions in 2012 helped to turn a team that was dead last in 2011 around and put them on the path to making their first, and only, playoff appearance in MLS history. More importantly, he was justifiably named the team’s MVP. Although it can be argued that Lee’s 2013 season was not as brilliant as his first, the truth is that we can consider ourselves lucky to have witnessed a truly great player.
His last game could have been under better circumstances – a playoff occasion comes to mind. But all in all, it went very well. He was able to retire in front of his home fans who, once again, created a great atmosphere and gave him a warm and heartfelt welcome when he walked on the pitch with his daughters on either side. Fans spent hours creating a tifo in his honour. They broke into “Y.P. Lee! Y.P. Lee!” chants throughout the match. And, they gave him a long, loud, and well deserved standing ovation when he was substituted in stoppage time.
With his future seemingly tied to Vancouver, at least in the short to medium term, as he wishes to learn the administrative and business side of the sport before potentially returning to Korea, the younger generation of Whitecaps will not only have the invaluable opportunity to model themselves after a true professional on and off the pitch but, more importantly, after a great person.
So, thank you Y.P. Lee for coming to Vancouver and sharing your talent and experience with us and for helping the Whitecaps become a better club for years to come.
Read more on Y.P. Lee’s career here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Young-Pyo
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