By Marc Weber, The Province October 17, 2010
Dejected Vancouver Whitecaps cover their facdes after  Puerto Rico scores the winnning goal at Swangard Stadium on Oct 17, 2010.
Dejected Vancouver Whitecaps cover their faces after Puerto Rico scores the winnning goal at Swangard Stadium on Oct 17, 2010. Photograph by: Mark van Manen, PNG

The Vancouver Whitecaps almost defended their way into the USSF D-2 final. But that gaping hole at forward — the storyline all season — swallowed up their title hopes on Sunday evening.

The Puerto Rico Islanders brought a crushing conclusion to the Whitecaps’ time in second division soccer with a 2-0 win in front of 5,325 fans at Swangard Stadium.

Former Whitecap Nick Addlery scored the winning goal in the 113th minute, then tacked on a second at the death, to lift the No. 8 Islanders into the final against the No. 2 Carolina RailHawks.

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«We came close,» said Caps’ midfielder Terry Dunfield, «unfortunately, maybe we were a little bit sloppy…the little things let us down tonight. Once you get into extra time, you’ve got to get your shape right.»

There was a dearth of chances in another tight meeting between these teams. Until Addlery’s winner, neither had scored a goal in head-to-head competition in 351 minutes.

Dunfield had the best chance of overtime for No. 5 seed Vancouver. Philippe Davies chested down a pass into Dunfield’s path at the top of the box, but his hard drive was saved by Bill Gaudette at full stretch.

That was in the 112th minute. A few seconds later, Caps’ defender Ethan Gage had a ball ricochet cruelly off his leg straight to Addlery, who one-timed a shot past Jay Nolly from 18 yards.

The way Nolly has played this season, and especially in these playoffs, the Caps had to like their chances in penalty kicks. But they couldn’t quite get there.

A last-gasp free kick and corner kick only served to spring Addlery for his second goal, this one into an open net with Nolly pushed well up the field.

«I don’t think it comes any better than that,» said Addlery, whose time in Vancouver was short lived with four goals in 34 games in 2008. «But it’s not about me. Hats off to my teammates.»

Addlery was coming off arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and word was he was out for two weeks. The Caps wish that had been true.

«I’m very disappointed,» said Caps’ coach Teitur Thordarson. «I’m not too unhappy about [how we played], I’m unhappy about the result.

«We have had a lot of games during the season looking like that — creating chances but not managing to score on them. I was hoping in the end that the subs would give us a little more energy, but unfortunately that didn’t work out.»

Thordarson and the Caps’ management team won’t spend too long lingering on this loss. Vancouver makes the move to Major League Soccer in March and there’s a roster to evaluate and assemble.

At the top of the list of additions, unquestionably, will be a forward or two.

Unable to score with any consistency all season, Vancouver adopted a 4-2-3-1 formation for the playoffs, using Dunfield and 19-year-old Gershon Koffie as holding midfielders to support the defence and clog up the middle.

Koffie’s emergence was a huge positive, as was the play of Dunfield, but it wasn’t enough.

It will be of some solace to the Whitecaps that Carolina prevented the Montreal Impact from reaching the championship stage with a come-from-behind 2-1 win on aggregate.

Game wrap –

Islanders 2 Whitecaps 0

Goals: Nick Addlery 113′, 120+

Cautions: (VAN) Mobulu 11′ (P.R.) Horst 31′

Caps’ lineup: Nolly; Forko, Bellisomo, Janicki, Gage; Mobulu (Chiumiento 64′), Koffie, Dunfield, Knight (Davies 90′); Nash (Morfaw 105′), Porter (Edwini-Bonsu 70′)

Islanders’ lineup: Gaudette; Martinez, Velez (Emory 98′), Horst, Villaroel; Delgado (Gbandi 105′), Nurse, Daniel (Addlery 84′), Miranda; Foley, Jagdeosingh (Hansen 73′)