Tuesday, September 22, 2009
BAYAMON, PR – A late stoppage time equalizer from the visiting Deportivo Saprissa of Costa Rica for a 1-1 draw in the fourth match of group play left the Puerto Rico Islanders of the USL First Division in the final spot in the group, dashing long-shot hopes of returning to the knockout stages for a second straight year as the USL playoff-bound side faces the final two games with only two points.
The visitors had the first good opportunity of the night on a rain-soaked pitch when a cross in the ninth minute found Ariel Santana for a free header from 10 yards, but it went right to goalkeeper Bill Gaudette.
Water-logged from two days of rain that halted over an hour before the game, the clubs struggled to find a consistent flow in their offense, reminiscent of several games in the competition a year ago, including Puerto Rico’s memorable defeat of Mexico’s Santos Laguna.
The Islanders had back-to-back chances midway through the first half. A corner from Jonathan Steele in the 24th minute was cleared back out to the corner to Steele, who sent a cross back in that nearly soared over the keeper, who made a last-second tip over the crossbar. A similar play came from the opposite corner on the ensuing corner, but the cross popped up and John Krause was unable to direct his header away from the keeper from 14 yards.
In the 55th minute Gaudette smothered a bouncing header in the muddy penalty area to squelch an early Saprissa chance.
A minute later Puerto Rico had a chance of their own when Sean Fraser raced deep on the right side of the area and narrowly beat the goalkeeper as they both lunged for the ball, sending it over the prone netminder to goal, but Victor Cordeiro made a sliding goal line save to send it wide.
The Islanders finally went ahead in the 72nd minute when Fabrice Noel patiently worked his way down the left hand sided of the area, where he chipped the ball to the far side of the six to second half sub Nicholas Addlery, who sent it back across the six to Josh Hansen for a four-yard rip into the roof of the netting.
A long-distance effort from 26 yards by sub Cristian Arrieta forced an outstretched save from the keeper in the 84th minute to keep the visitors in reach.
In the 88th minute a give-and-return on a short corner led to a cross to the far post that Arrieta was unable to fully finish under tight pressure.
The missed opportunities and unforced turnovers in the final minutes proved costly as Saprissa got the stunning equalizer in the third minute of stoppage time when a cross saw a rising Kendall Waston head the ball just inside the far post past the outstretched Gaudette.
The Saprissa draw maintained the Costa Rican side’s status at third, but put them three back of group leader Cruz Azul and two back of the Columbus Crew. The pair will square off in their fourth-round group match Wednesday evening in Ohio.