VANCOUVER, B.C. — The focus following the Vancouver Whitecaps' stylish 3-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids was naturally on Camilo Sanvezzo, MLS' Budweiser Golden Boot winner and hat-trick hero on the night.
Perhaps that was a fitting end to a long career of playing as a quiet leader for Lee Young-Pyo, who, wherever he has played, has always gone about his business without much flash and dash while others grab the glory.
On the night, he captained the Whitecaps and in his typical way, was modest about the honor bestowed to him in his final match before retirement.
“I'm a captain, but you know, it's many differences between original and imitation,” Lee said with a smile, of relieving club skipper Jay DeMerit of the armband for the match. “I'm imitation captain today, but I really appreciate it. But I'm very [thankful] because everybody thinking about me, my last game.”
In his final game, the former South Korean international, who has graced the top leagues of the Netherlands, England and Germany, among other stops, was typically efficient, bombing forward and demonstrating his technical skill with stepovers to the delight of the 21,000 fans in the sold-out BC Place.
There were several instances where the fans spontaneously started chanting, “Y.P. Lee! Y.P Lee!”
In stoppage time, head coach Martin Rennie gave the player his deserved send off by bringing rookie Erik Hurtado on as a substitute, allowing supporters to give Lee a standing ovation to show their appreciation for his contributions both in Vancouver, and to the sport generally.
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“You couldn’t really leave a better impression; he’s just a fantastic person and character,” Rennie said of the 36-year-old following the match. “You saw tonight when he was playing well against a difficult opponent like Deshorn Brown. At no point in time has he ever thought of himself as too big for anything or too good for anybody.
“It’s amazing that someone who has achieved as much as he has is as humble as he is and as solid a character. He’s really helped us in the two years to develop this team and he’s really moved us forward. In the last two years the only teams in MLS that have improved year on year are the Whitecaps and New England and I think Y.P’s had a big part in that.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.