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11 Jul 2018  

VANCOUVER -- The biggest knock against Gershon Koffie with the Vancouver Whitecaps has been his consistency. An imposing presence in midfield, the Ghanaian would be the best player on the pitch one game and virtually invisible the next. After starting the 2014 campaign on the bench, Koffie has finally begun to live up to expectations on a daily basis, and both he and the Whitecaps have one of the teams new acquisitions at least partly to thank. Toronto FC dealt Matias Laba to Vancouver right before the start of the season and the Argentine midfielder has slotted seamlessly into the centre of rookie head coach Carl Robinsons formation. The workhorse not only cleans up danger in front of the Whitecaps defence, he also allows Vancouvers attacking players to push forward -- with Koffie being one of the main beneficiaries thus far. The 22-year-old scored from 40 yards out after pouncing on a goalkeeping error in last weekends 2-2 draw with the Seattle Sounders, and had three other clear-cut chances, including a shot that rattled the crossbar in the games opening minutes. "Gersh has got incredible attributes. Hes got the physical strength. When he makes a tackle and he means it, no ones going to beat him. Hes really that powerful," Whitecaps assistant coach Martyn Pert said Thursday. "The consistency part of the game is still something that hes got to really work hard at, and hes getting there, thats four or five games on the spin now hes been very good. "Hes got to keep it going, keep the foot on the pedal and keep driving." Robinson favoured Nigel Reo-Coker in the centre of midfield at the start of the season, but after the Englishman was injured in an off-field incident the Whitecaps turned to Koffie. "I dont think I was disappointed to be on the bench, but that motivated me," said Koffie, whose goal against Seattle was his first of the season. "I have to embrace it because my fellow mates were doing well and it was a coachs decision." Koffie -- who has already played 93 games in his Major League Soccer career -- said Robinson has asked him to go forward more in his attack-minded system, and credits Laba with allowing him that freedom to roam. "Playing with Matias Laba gives me the license to go forward and get some chances," said Koffie. "I know hes there to work the defensive part and delay (opponents) before we can get back in (formation)." Labas tenacity has also rubbed off on his midfield counterpart, who tracked back on more than one occasion against Seattle to help out Vancouvers back line. "(Labas) a guy who sets the tone," said Koffie. "If you play next to him, he goes in for tackles (and) you have to do the same. If he goes in chasing the ball, you have to do the same, because you cant let him do the job (alone)." Also just 22, Laba was a casualty of Toronto FCs winter spending spree, with the club unable to retain the designated player it acquired last season. "I didnt expect it, but I think its for the best," Laba said through an interpreter. "Im very happy in Vancouver with a great coach and teammates." Although he often takes care of the less-glamorous tasks on the field, the Whitecaps have come to appreciate his tireless work. "Mati gives us a great dimension to build off of at the back," said Vancouver captain Jay DeMerit. "He lets the guys that are creative express themselves a little bit more, just by giving you a little bit more of a lockdown defensively." Added the selfless Laba: "Ive always played that way -- win balls, win tackles -- and quickly disperse (passes) so my teammates have more time on the ball." Pert has been in awe at how quickly Laba has adapted to his new surroundings. "Matis been incredible since hes come in and the fact he came in two weeks before the start of the season and every game he just never lets you down," said Pert. "Hes absolutely a top, top player. I couldnt speak highly enough of Mati. "He makes incredible tackles, he gets his foot on the ball, he plays it simple." Because of their youth, Laba and Koffie could be patrolling Vancouvers midfield for some time, and the pair are expected to start alongside each other once again when the Whitecaps (4-2-5) visit the Portland Timbers (3-3-7) on Sunday. "(Koffies) a great player and I think we work really well together," said Laba. "I can win balls and that opens space up for him to go forward and attack more. We compliment each other quite well." 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FLIP SAUNDERS (Timberwolves): Im not the least bit surprised that he appointed himself as head coach after his search concluded.TORONTO - The security budget for next summers Pan Am Games in Toronto was far too low, and arrangements to protect venues and athletes are behind schedule, auditor general Bonnie Lysyk warned Wednesday.Lysyk did a special audit after the opposition parties complained that the Liberal government awarded a contract for the bulk of private security services at the Games to a company that did not have the lowest bid.The governments decision to award the contract to Contemporary Security Canada was fair, even though at $81 million it was $14 million higher than the next lowest bid, concluded Lysyk.The selection processes ... were fair and transparent, complied with government procurement policies and applied lessons learned from other similar sporting events, she wrote.Officials put appropriate emphasis on contractors prior experience with providing security at large-scale events and project management qualifications, added Lysyk.However, we had concerns with the timing of security procurement and the communication of the related expected costs.The auditor said the private security contract was budgeted in 2013 at only $42 million, far lower than the $81 million contract that was awarded.Our only concern was that the budget for security procurement was understated and should have been more accurate, wrote Lysyk. We noted the same understatement of budgets for other, smaller security procurements. Pan Am organizers now estimate security costs at $247.4 million, more than double the original estimate of $121.9 million in Torontos bid for the Games.I wouldnt say it was a deliberate ploy to mislead people, Lysyk told reporters. It really wasnt until there was more information, more work being done on security planning, when they started to appreciate that number was too low.Sport Minister Michael Coteau could not explain why the private security budget for the Games was off so much just a year ago, and said he would not put a firm limit on the security budget because there could be a change in the threat level.What would it look like knowing this government put a hard cap on security and comprised the safety of Ontarians, Coteau asked reporters. If the cost increases because of a (higher) threat level, Im quite comfortable with that.Deputy OPP Commissioner Brad Blair said the threat level was increased last month after a gunman shot and killed a soldier at the Ottawa war memorial before storming Parliament Hill, where he was fatally shot by security.ddddddddddddhe threat level has changed, which means theres a heightened awareness, not only within law enforcement but also with the general public, said Blair. Until we see a specific threat to these games, I would say our planning principles would not change.Arrangements to ensure athletes and officials have secure access to the field-of-play zones at Pan Am venues and to protect the athletes and their equipment are behind schedule, warned Lysyk.With only nine months before the Games begin, TO2015 had only just issued a request for proposals for contract asset protection security services, nor had it completed all procurements for security equipment, she said. TO2015 was supposed to look after the venue of play security, and that hasnt been completed.The opposition parties said they feared security was just one area where the Pan Am Games organizers would blow the budget.Theres a real good chance well be back here in November of next year, after the Games are over, and youre going to see that every piece of the pie involving the Pan Am Games is way over budget, and its the taxpayers of Ontario that are going to have to pay for those overruns, said Progressive Conservative Todd Smith.If theyre messing up so much with respect to the security costs, how much more is out there that we dont know about yet, asked New Democrat Jagmeet Singh.The Toronto security estimate is just a fraction of the nearly $900 million spent on security at the Vancouver Olympics, but officials believe there is a lower risk profile at the Pan Am Games, with far fewer high-profile dignitaries expected to attend.In September, the province had to pump another $74 million into the Games, most of it because of lower than expected sponsorship revenues.The government was criticized for not including the $709 million cost of the athletes village in its original $1.4-billion budget for the Games, which now is expected to top $2.57 billion and could go even higher.It could increase even more depending on future risk and threat assessments and changes in the scope of the Games, said Lysyk.Follow @CPnewsboy on TwitterNote to readers: This is a corrected story. 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