Vancouver Whitecaps tie Charleston Battery in USL action - Vancouver Sun

John Atkinson

Substitute Charles Gbeke earned the Whitecaps a 1-1 draw with USL-1 leaders Charleston Battery in a hard-fought encounter at Swangard Wednesday.

The visitors took advantage of a lacklustre first-half display from Teitur Thordarson's side, taking the lead through top scorer Randi Patterson in the 18th minute. However, the second-half introductions of Alfredo Valente and Gbeke helped swing things back in the Whitecaps' favour, the former setting up the latter for the equalizer in the 81st minute.

Head coach Thordarson actually used all five substitutes after the break - and admitted it was necessary.

"I felt there were many players not at their best in the first half and we needed all five changes to really change the game," he said. "In the end, we were a little unlucky not to take all three points."

Thordarson made three changes to the lineup that started against the Carolina RailHawks, Wesley Charles replacing the not-quite-100 per cent Omar Jarun in central defence, Luca Bellisomo coming in for Lyle Martin (strained hamstring) and Jay Nolly, who was preferred to Srdjan Djekanovic between the posts.

Meanwhile, defender/midfielder Navid Mashinchi, recently called up from the Whitecaps' residency squad, earned a place on the substitutes bench.

Nick Addlery, fresh from scoring a hat-trick in a friendly at Prince George at the weekend, looked lively for the sprightly Whitecaps early on, breaking clear in the right side of the penalty area after five minutes, only to see his cross-come-shot deflected wide. Vancouver forced a brace of corners from that foray, but sturdy Charleston defending averted the danger - before the visitors imposed themselves on the game.

Vancouver had the lion's share of the play during the remainder of the first period but struggled to pierce a resolute Charleston rearguard. The home side were also frustrated by several refereeing decisions which went against them, including bookings for Vicente Arze and Steve Kindel.

However, after Charles had acrobatically broken down a Battery attack, the Whitecaps almost restored parity in the dying seconds of the half. Justin Moose curled in a free-kick from the right and Edwardo Sebrango rose above the visitors' defence to arrow a header which bounced off the left upright.

The home side initially continued in the same vein after the break, enjoying most of the possession, but failing to create goal-scoring chances. However, Valente began to impose himself on the left and captain Jeff Clarke, moved into midfield after Omar Jarun took the field, also helped step things up.

Valente's cross from the left later perfectly picked out Gbeke, and the forward headed past Dusty Hudock, another home substitute, Jason Jordan, following in just to make sure.

Just before Mashinchi came on, to become the first Residency player to play in the USL-1, Gbeke almost won it for Vancouver, superbly controlling Wes Charles' throughball, but seeing his shot on the turn fly just over the bar.

© Vancouver Sun