BAYAMON, Puerto Rico — Kendall Waston scored with a header in the third minute of injury time and Saprissa salvaged a 1-1 draw with the Puerto Rico Islanders Tuesday night, all but ending the CONCACAF Champions League knockout round hopes of last year’s semifinalists.
Waston leaped in the middle of the area to deflect a ball off the left side just inside the right post and past diving Puerto Rico goalkeeper Bill Gaudette.
The result gave Saprissa four points in third place, three behind Group C leader Cruz Azul and two behind the Columbus Crew with two matches remaining. Puerto Rico remained last with two points and all but mathematically eliminated. Only two teams advance from each of the four groups.
Cruz Azul travels to play the U.S. Major League Soccer champion on Wednesday.
Playing on a sodden field, Joshua Hansen gave the Islanders the lead and seemingly the victory in the 72nd minute. Fabrice Noel was able create space for himself on the left, flicked the ball across the penalty area to second-half substitute Nicholas Addlery, who settled and sent it back across the goal to Hansen. The unmarked 27-year-old American tapped the ball into the roof of the net from inside the six.
Two days of rain that halted about 90 minutes before kickoff left the field with several areas of standing water, especially along both touch lines. Balls skidded and came to sudden and unexpected stops while players struggled for their footing everywhere.
The field conditions, reminiscent of last year’s group match in Puerto Rico between the Islanders and Santos Laguna, made for sloppy play with both teams finding it difficult to gauge passing and maintain ball control.
After the first 10-15 minutes when Saprissa had the better of possession, including Ariel Santana’s header easily handled by Gaudette, the Islanders had the majority of play, largely keep play in the Costa Rican half.
Puerto Rico was able to generate three consecutive corner kicks in quick succession midway through the half, causing Saprissa some anxious moments but not seriously testing keeper Keilor Navas.
As the field continued to drain after halftime, play improved somewhat but still limiting both teams from a possession game.
Noel twice caused trouble for Saprissa, breaking free down the right side, hitting the side netting in the 47th minute and getting a ball that beat Navas in the 55th but was cleared off the line by a backtracking Victor Cordero.
Puerto Rico must next travel to Mexico City to face Cruz Azul next Tuesday, while Saprissa will be in Columbus on the same night. Columbus won its match in Saprissa 1-0.