So it’s fitting that the teams were on the same flight out of Puerto Rico on Friday morning — forced into close quarters in airport waiting rooms and even on the plane.
You want awkward? Whitecaps’ defenders Luca Bellisomo and Greg Janicki sandwiched an Islanders player for the entire flight.
«He said «washroom» once, and I was like, «sure,» said Bellisomo, who had the aisle seat. «And that was it. We kept to ourselves and they kept to themselves.»
«It was just silent,» Janicki said. «I don’t even know the guy’s name to be honest. Headphones on, watch the movie. It was an interesting situation. A little comical, a little uncomfortable.»
All three head-to-head meetings have been tight, uncomfortable affairs this season.
A 1-1 tie in Puerto Rico on June 16. A 0-0 draw in Vancouver on Sept. 5. Then Thursday’s 0-0 first-leg semifinal down in Puerto Rico that set up today’s winner-take-all second leg at Swangard Stadium (4 p.m., Shaw).
If the teams tie again, a trip to the USSF D-2 final will come down to a pair of 15-minute overtimes, then, if needed, penalty kicks.
The Whitecaps say they are going to attack more than they did on the road, but Islanders’ coach Colin Clarke isn’t expecting much to change.
«I think it will be similar to our game up here during league and our games down in Puerto Rico,» he said. «It’s been very tight between us and I think one team will be a little better on the day or get a little break.
«You hope that the game is decided by a little bit of magic by one of the players that makes it special.»
Despite the close contests, the Whitecaps do have a historical edge over their Caribbean counterparts. Vancouver is 5-0-3 all-time against Puerto Rico at Swangard Stadium.
That includes a 2-1 victory in the 2008 title game, a one-off final that the Islanders felt they should have hosted as the higher seed. It was a league decision based on several factors, including television.
That’s well in the past now, Clarke said.
Like that 2008 season, Puerto Rico finds itself on a deep run in two competitions. Wednesday, the Islanders are in Honduras to take on Olimpia with a berth into the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals on the line.
«I can’t speak highly enough of our players and what they’ve put into the season,» Clarke said. «Our run in the CCL has been very good and here we are again, sitting one game away from the final.»
And sitting next to the Whitecaps one last time, at least for this season. Vancouver jumps to Major League Soccer in 2011, though they could meet in future CCL play.
One thing definitely changes from that flight.
«There’ll be some interactions today,» Bellisomo said. «I’m sure of that.»