Just two days after their stunning CONCACAF Champions League series victory, the Puerto Rico Islanders were facing a game that was to decide the top spot of the USL-1 table in Bayamón against the co-league leading Vancouver Whitecaps Friday. The match was a stalemate until the Islanders prevailed with an outstanding 89th minute goal. It was the first time Puerto Rico recorded a win over Vancouver in their five-year franchise history.
The hosts came out dominating from the opening whistle with Kendall Jagdeosingh taking the first shot at goal before the first minute of play was up. The threat was no problem for Whitecaps keeper Jay Nolly.
The intensity kept up on the local end, but Puerto Rico seemed unable to gain from their push. A free kick taken by Petter Villegas in minute 10 flew above the crossbar. And seven minutes later, a great cross from Jagdeosingh found Cristian Arrieta on the right flank ready for the kill, but Nolly was also ready for the stop.
Vancouver held its own with good defense, and threatened the locals as well with a great combination between Martin Nash and Lyle Martin that placed the ball squarely in front Nicholas Addlery in minute 23. Addlery's run down field and excellent final shot was to no avail, however. Four minutes later, the Whitecaps gave their hosts another scare with an excellent header by Omar Jarun that Bill Gaudette scrambled to foil.
The pace of the game seemed to slow for a few minutes, with both squads gathering their bearings as halftime approached. Puerto Rico tried once more to break the tie when Nigel Henry attempted a header off a corner in minute 33, but once again Nolly was not about to let the ball past his guard.
The second half began with equal intensity as the first. A fantastic cross from Arrieta gave Villegas a great chance to put a point on the board in minute 46. It was again a no go. Villegas would try again three minutes later, this time overshooting the crossbar.
Vancouver answered back in minutes 49, 57 and 59. A precise throw in by Nash placed the ball dangerously close to the post. As Puerto Rico attempted to clear, Jarun came in for the shot, but missed the mark. Then Alfredo Valente blasted a great shot as he arrived in the six. The ball bounced hard off the far post, but the referee had already called the play offside. Two minutes later, Eduardo Sebrango would try his luck with no results.
Puerto Rico was again ready to turn up the heat. A scramble in front of Nolly's box placed the ball at Arrieta's feet. But his fierce shot was cleared by an alert Whitecaps defense and the corner that ensued was not converted. In minute 72, Fabrice Noel ran away with the ball and attempted a shot that was again deflected by a tight defense. Villegas found the loose ball and blasted it straight into Nolly's waiting hands.
Six minutes later, the Whitecaps threatened their hosts for the last time. A cross from Jason Jordan found a wide open Sebrango inside the box. It seemed as if the visitors would finally have it, but Sebrango missed a golden opportunity when his shot went far to the right.
On the last minute of play, a freshly inserted Noah Delgado was quick to see Arrieta's intention to center him the perfect pass, blasting a fantastic header into the back of the net for the win and sole possession of first.
USL First Division
Wednesday, Sept. 3
Miami FC Blues 0 at Portland Timbers 4
The Portland Timbers scoring issues came to an end Friday evening with the usually defensively tough Miami side coming to PGE Park. It took only three minutes for Byron Alvarez to give the hosts the lead with defender Cameron Dunn doubling the advantage in the 41st for the break. In the second half Chris Brown connected for two, putting away the rebound on his own saved penalty three minutes into the period and capping the night with his second in the 70th.
Friday, Sept. 5
Minnesota Thunder 1 at Montreal Impact 1
Perhaps a little road weary from their CONCACAF Champions League series victory that finished in Honduras Tuesday, the visiting Thunder were able to take the initial lead in the match 21 minutes in when Brian Cvilikas found Stephen deRoux for the opening strike. But just before the end of the half Sandro Grande converted a penalty to put the game on level terms that would be left unbroken.
Saturday, Sept. 6
Charleston Battery 1 at Carolina RailHawks 3
Perhaps let down from their narrow US Open Cup loss to D.C. United Wednesday, the Battery were stunned by the RailHawks, who are fighting to get into the playoff zone. Kupono Low opened the scoring with a penalty in the 21st minute and Steven Curfman pushed the advantage to two with two minutes left in the half. Charleston cut into the deficit on a strike from Aaron King in the 68th, but it was not enough as Rey Martinez, the recent addition from Rochester, put the game away on Matt Watson's second assist of the night.
Portland Timbers 0 at Rochester Rhinos 2
The Charleston loss opened the door for Rochester, who took advantage to move into sole possession of third. Johnny Menyongar connected with Matthew Delicate for the lead in the 40th minute and recent addition Ryan Heins struck in the 87th to secure the victory.
Miami FC Blues 0 at Seattle Sounders 3
The defensive struggles continued for Miami in Seattle, who saw the return of Leighton O'Brien from injury. O'Brien converted a penalty 33 minutes in for the lead. Sebastien Le Toux made it 2-0 in the 50th with O'Brien adding his second in the 77th to join Rochester in skipping past the Battery in the table for fourth position.
Sunday, Sept. 7
Minnesota Thunder 0 at Vancouver Whitecaps 0
Neither team found what they needed. The Whitecaps remain behind Puerto Rico in their chase for the regular season title and Minnesota missed an opportunity to strengthen their positioning for reaching the playoffs. The Thunder were left a man down after Andres Arango received his second yellow in the 41st with Nic Platter posting five saves in the shutout. They were unable to take advantage of the game returning to level terms for the final seven minutes, however, following Omar Jarun's second yellow for Vancouver.