By BOB MACKIN
Vancouver Whitecaps’ striker Charles Gbeke did it again, scoring the game-winning goal to send the Puerto Rico Islanders out of Swangard Stadium with a United Soccer Leagues’ First Division loss.
Gbeke’s 82nd minute goal, his first of 2009, gave the Whitecaps a 1-0 win and sole possession of first place on a drizzly Sunday night. Gbeke also had both goals in last October’s 2-1 league final victory over the visiting Islanders.
“Thanks to my wife, she arrived yesterday (from Brazil) and I scored today,” Gbeke said. “The coach said today maybe it’s going to take 80, 90 minutes to score that goal.”
“It was a relief for me, it was getting tough there, I had a big weight on my shoulders,” said Gbeke, who scored five goals in 2008 after a midseason trade from the Montreal Impact.
“I said to him, I have been a striker myself, been in similar situations. I said to him slow down, and do what we are expecting from you and the goals will come,” said head coach Teitur Thordarson.
Striker Marlon James nearly scored in the eighth minute when he received a Gbeke cross deep in the Puerto Rico penalty area. Gbeke’s graceful header in the 20th minute on a long cross was nudged aside by Islander Bill Gaudette, the 2008 USL goalkeeper of the year.
James, who was USL player of the week for a hat-trick in his first Whitecaps’ start eight days ago, injured his hamstring in the 36th minute. Thordarson said he could be gone three to six weeks.
Vic and Wes:
Thordarson applauded sophomore midfielder Vicente Arze and rookie defender Wes Knight for their two-way play. Knight’s cross set-up Gbeke’s goal.
Puerto Rico, the “orange troupe,” managed just three shots on Whitecaps’ goalkeeper Jay Nolly, who earned his third shutout in six 2009 games. One came from Nick Addlery, a 2008 Whitecap. Gbeke had three of the Caps’ nine shots on Gaudette.
Top of the table:
The 3-1-2 Whitecaps vaulted from fifth place into first with 11 points, one ahead of the Carolina RailHawks and Rochester Rhinos. The Rhinos are Vancouver’s next opponent on May 16 at Swangard.