Vancouver Whitecaps News Release - www.whitecapsfc.com
Saturday, April 18, 2009
BAYAMON, PR -- The Vancouver Whitecaps fell to a 2-1 away defeat versus last season's USL First Division regular season champions Puerto Rico Islanders Saturday evening. Two first-half goals by former Whitecaps striker Nicholas Addlery gave the Islanders victory in their USL-1 season opener at the Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium. The win also earned the Caribbean outfit some measure of revenge for losing last season's USL-1 Championship Final to the Whitecaps.
Both of the Jamaican's strikes canceled out Marcus Haber's first-ever Whitecaps goal that came very early in the weekend contest in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
Saturday's result was Vancouver's second-straight regular season defeat to the Islanders and on the Caribbean island, with the Whitecaps now having started the 2009 campaign with a draw and a defeat from their opening two league matches.
Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson made one change to the side that started last Saturday's goalless home draw with Charleston Battery. Wesley Charles overcame a hamstring problem to replace Justin Thompson in the centre of the Whitecaps backline.
Islanders head coach Colin Clarke, meanwhile, gave former Whitecaps strikers Addlery and Josh Hansen the start up front against their former club. The home side, however, were without last season's USL-1 Most Valuable Player in Jonny Steele in midfield.
On a clear and warm evening for soccer, a vocal Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium crowd of 5,250 saw the home side put on a solid first-half performance in their season opener, even though the very early stages of the match belonged to the Whitecaps.
Playing in their away strip of all blue, Charles Gbeke had the first chance of the game after just two minutes. The Canadian international, however, could only see his strike from Haber's headed flick deflect wide for a Whitecaps corner.
A minute later, however, the visitors would open the scoring through Haber. Captain Martin Nash's free kick from the left-hand side of the Puerto Rico box found Luca Bellisomo at the far post. The right fullback's header deflected off an Islander and fell kindly for the Canadian youth international to duly convert his first goal for the club and Vancouver's first competitive goal of the new season.
It was a great start by the visitors, but their advantage last just four minutes, as Addlery came back to haunt his old club by striking Puerto Rico's equalizer. Petter Villegas took Scott Jones' throw-in before hitting a cross-field ball to Noah Delgado on the right-hand side. The Islanders captain got down the right flank and eluded the attentions of Whitecaps defender Takashi Hirano before squaring the ball to Addlery, who finished with aplomb to make it 1-1.
The goal gave the Islanders real life, with Hansen finding the back of the net on 11 minutes. Unfortunately for him, the striker was adjudged to be offside. Five minutes later, Whitecaps goalkeeper Jay Nolly had to make two huge saves to deny the Islanders taking the lead.
With many considering Puerto Rico as favourites for this season's league title, La Tropa Naranja (Orange Troop) continued to dominate the match, with Villegas striking a shot wide of Nolly's goal following an Islanders corner on 23 minutes. At the other end, last season's USL-1 Goalkeeper of the Year in Bill Gaudette was called on to make an important save from Bellisomo two minutes later. Nash's free kick to the far post found the 'Caps right fullback, but his goal-bound effort was well blocked away for a corner by the Puerto Rico number one.
Ten minutes later, Gaudette came up with another big save for the home side. Haber was allowed to break in free on the Puerto Rico goal, but his low finish was blocked by the legs of the Islanders shot-stopper and away to safety.
The Islanders' attacking pairing of Addlery and Hansen caused the Whitecaps backline many problems through the course of the opening half, and it was Addlery who struck again for the home side on 39 minutes. The ex-Vancouver forward beat the Whitecaps offside trap to reach Cristian Arrieta's forward ball on the right-hand side. He then raced in and finished past Nolly to make it 2-1 before running in celebration right past the Whitecaps bench.
Puerto Rico were in the ascendancy at this stage, and unfortunate not to extend their lead on 44 minutes. From heavy pressure in the Whitecaps box, Villegas flicked the ball over the head of Nolly and towards goal, but Hirano was on hand to heroically clear the ball off the goalline before Marco Reda made an important block from an ensuing shot on goal, as Clarke's side had to be satisfied with a one-goal lead at halftime.
Thordarson was honest in his assessment of the first 45 minutes. "We had a very poor first half," he told whitecapsfc.com. "We started very well by scoring an early goal, but after that, Puerto Rico were all over us. I felt we turned off a little bit after scoring that goal, but fortunately, Jay Nolly was able to keep us in the match with some important saves."
For the start of the second half, youngster Ethan Gage replaced Ansu Toure in midfield for his first appearance since last October's USL-1 Championship Final. The move saw Mason Trafford shift to the left-hand side of midfield and Gage partner Nash in central midfield.
Needing a goal to get back on level terms, the Whitecaps looked the brighter side soon after the restart, with Nash shooting wide of the target on 47 minutes before Gbeke hit the side-netting with an ambitious bicycle kick in the Puerto Rico box on 58 minutes.
On the hour mark, Vicente Arze was unable to direct Trafford's decent cross from the left on target at the far post, with the Bolivian claiming in vain that an Islanders player had deflected the ball out for a corner. At the other end, Bellisomo did well to deflect away Arrieta's goal-bound shot for a Puerto Rico corner on 62 minutes.
Looking to turn their fortunes around, Thordarson then introduced youngster Wes Knight for his USL-1 debut, as he replaced Arze on 64 minutes, while Whitecaps Residency striker Dever Orgill came on for Haber to partner Gbeke in the visitors' attack six minutes later.
Coming off a fine goalscoring display with the Residency team at Dallas Cup XXX, Orgill tried his best to help the men's team earn a point against the Islanders with his committed forward play off the substitutes' bench. Unfortunately for him, the Jamaican youth international's efforts earned him a yellow card after his foul on Arrieta on 79 minutes.
Both sides remained intent on attacking into the dying stages of the match, with the 'Caps last real chance to equalize coming from a free kick on 86 minutes. Yet, unlike last season in Puerto Rico, Hirano's set piece flew high and over the Islanders crossbar.
Though several minutes of time added on were played, Puerto Rico were able to see the match out and begin their 2009 league campaign with a home victory.
90 FULL MINUTES
Thordarson was disappointed not to come away with something from Saturday's match, as he saw a more spirited display from his squad after the break. "In the second half, we made some changes and changed our formation," he said. "I felt that help us, as we looked the stronger side. We created some good chances, but in the end, we were unable to convert them."
The Whitecaps will now look to try and get in the win column on Tuesday night when they visit USL-1 expansion club Austin Aztex for the first time in Texas. The Islanders, meanwhile, will turn their attentions to Rochester Rhinos, who visit the Caribbean island next Friday.
Match Stats [+]