The game that was to decide the top spot of the USL-1 table was finally played out in Bayamón, and the Islanders got the better end of the deal with an outstanding 89th minute goal. It is 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.
Despite the efforts from either end, period one ended scoreless.
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.