Vancouver Whitecaps News Release – www.whitecapsfc.com

Sunday, May 10, 2009

VANCOUVER, BC — Vancouver Whitecaps FC moved to the top of the USL First Division standings after a 1-0 home win over Puerto Rico Islanders on Sunday evening.

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Charles Gbeke’s first goal of the season gave the Whitecaps a deserved victory over their Caribbean opponents at Swangard Stadium, with the Blue and White recording a third straight league win as a result. Sunday’s victory also maintained the Whitecaps undefeated all-time home record versus the Islanders, with Vancouver now having claimed four wins and two draws against Puerto Rico going back to the 2005 season.

(Sam Leung)

Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson made three changes to the side that started last Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat at Major League Soccer club Toronto FC in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship. Takashi Hirano and Wes Knight replaced the injured Marco Reda and Mason Trafford in the Whitecaps backline, while youngster Ethan Gage replaced Justin Moose in midfield.

Islanders head coach Colin Clarke, meanwhile, four changes to the side that started Friday night’s 1-1 draw at Austin Aztex in the Texas state capital. Kyle Veris replaced John Krause in defence, while Martin Nunez replaced Petter Villegas in the visitors’ midfield. Former Whitecaps striker Nicholas Addlery joined former Miami FC Blues forward Sean Fraser in being Puerto Rico’s attack pairing on Sunday. The duo replaced Kendall Jagdeosingh and Fabrice Noel up front for the Caribbean outfit.

On an overcast Mother’s Day evening, a Swangard crowd of 5,023 saw a good first half of soccer, with the ‘Caps looking the better side throughout the opening 45 minutes.

The home side’s intent to attack came as early as the seventh minute, with Gage seeing a low shot come off the legs of an Islanders defender before the ball rolled away to safety. A minute later, some fine interplay from the Blue and White created a chance for Marlon James. Gbeke’s backheeled pass found Ansu Toure on the left flank. The Liberian eluded the attentions of Puerto Rico midfielder James Marcelin before crossing towards James in the visitors’ box, with the big striker’s overhead kick flying just wide of the target.

On 12 minutes, Toure’s name went into match referee John Oliva’s notebook after he pulled down Addlery at the halfway line after Puerto Rico had defended the winger’s free kick effort and had broken away on the counter-attack. One minute later, Gage forced a routine diving save from Islanders number one Bill Gaudette after the midfielder had taken a pass from Knight.

The best chance of the half fell to the home side on 20 minutes. Captain Martin Nash’s searching forward ball found Vicente Arze on the right flank. The Bolivian winger took control of the ball before playing an equally fine cross to Gbeke. The Canadian international connected with a fine header, but Gaudette was able to make a brilliant save to keep the match at 0-0.

The Whitecaps were impressive in their attacking play in the first half, with Puerto Rico fullback Cristian Arrieta forced into a fine piece of defending to clear another dangerous Arze cross on 25 minutes for a Vancouver corner. Two minutes later, James had a major chance to break the deadlock after Arze’s through ball had released the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines international in on goal. Unfortunately for the striker, his touch let him down at a crucial stage, with the ball rolling into the waiting arms of Gaudette.

As rain showers fell in the latter stages of the half, there was a scary moment for Whitecaps fans on 36 minutes, as James pulled up with a hamstring injury after trying to chase a ball down the right flank. The injury meant fellow forward Marcus Haber was brought on in his place to partner Gbeke on 38 minutes.

Though two minutes of added time on were played, both sides had to be content with a 0-0 scoreline at the halftime break.

The start of second half saw more pressure applied by the ‘Caps, with Puerto Rico uncharacteristically guilty of giving the ball away on a number of occasions after the restart. The situation prompted a move from Clarke on 58 minutes, with Jagdeosingh and Noel replacing Fraser and midfielder Martin Nunez for the visitors.

On 62 minutes, the Whitecaps forced two saves from Gaudette. The first from Gbeke after he got on the end of Haber’s flick from Whitecaps goalkeeper Jay Nolly’s forward clearance. Seconds later, Arze was unlucky not to give Vancouver the lead when his deflected shot forced a vital stop by the Islanders goalkeeper with his legs.

That missed chance seemed to frustrate the home side, who then struggled to have the same amount of possession through the midway stages of the half. With the scoreline still 0-0, the Islanders soon created chances of their own, even though the visitors were not at their best on Sunday.

On 71 minutes, Addlery nearly got on the end of substitute Noel’s low cross from the right, but Whitecaps centre back Jeff Parke was able to deal with the danger in front of Nolly’s goal. Puerto Rico went even closer to taking the lead four minutes later, as Addlery’s dangerous turn and low cross in the Whitecaps box struck Knight’s leg, then Nolly’s leg on the goal line, before the danger was cleared away by the home side.

Then after striking a shot high and wide of the target, Toure was replaced by Moose on 77 minutes, with the former Wake Forest University star moving to the right side of midfield, while Arze went out to the left-hand side.

As the match entered dying stages, the goal that Whitecaps fans were desperately looking for finally came on 82 minutes. Just as he did in last year’s USL-1 Championship Final against the Islanders, Gbeke headed home the match winner after Knight took a pass from Gage on the right and swung in a left-footed cross to the former Montreal Impact forward. It was Gbeke’s first competitive goal since that final last October.

Before the game was able to kick off again, Gordon Chin came on for Gage for his first appearance at home in a Whitecaps uniform since the 2003 season.

Puerto Rico’s reply to falling behind came through their captain Noah Delgado on 84 minutes, but despite being in a good position, his well-struck volley found the arms of Nolly. Three minutes later, Chin forced Gaudette to save his close-range shot after the midfielder had taken a pass from fellow substitute Moose.

Chances were traded by both sides in the three minutes of time added on. Gbeke flashed a shot high and wide for the Whitecaps, while Addlery looped a harmless header from Sandy Gbandi’s corner right to the hands of Nolly on the Vancouver goal line, as the final whistle confirmed a second straight home win of the year for the ‘Caps.

The Whitecaps will now prepare for another difficult home match in USL-1, as they host the in-form Rochester Rhinos at Swangard next Saturday evening. Puerto Rico, meanwhile, turn their attentions to making a return to the CONCACAF Champions League. Clarke’s side head to Macoya, Trinidad, to face Haiti’s Tempête FC in the semifinals of 2009 Caribbean Club Champions’ Cup.

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Edwin Jusino
Director Ejecutivo de FutbolBoricua.net. Actualmente estudiante de Historia de las Américas en programa combinado Maestría/PhD de la Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico, Recinto Metropolitano. Lleva más de una década cubriendo el fútbol de Puerto Rico. Actualmente está trabajando su disertación doctoral sobre el pasado presidente de la FPF, el Dr. Roberto Monroig. Hincha del Club Atlético de Madrid y de la Selección Nacional de Fútbol de Puerto Rico. Puede contactarle via twitter o Instagram en @erjusinoa