By IAN WALKER
Charles Gbeke did more than score on Sunday night.
His goal in the 82nd minute did more than win the game for the hometown Whitecaps over the Puerto Rico Islanders. Gbeke's well-placed header struck one of the most useless and bizarre stats from ever being spoken again this year.
That's right soccer fans, no longer have all of Vancouver's goals been scored by players whose first games begin with 'Mar.'
Marlon James, Marco Reda, Marcus Haber and Martin Nash were responsible for the team's six goals through the first five games of the United Soccer Leagues First Division season.
"It's nice to score and help the team; it's been frustrating," said Gbeke, whose last goal was the game-winner for the Whitecaps over the Islanders in the USL-1 championship in October. "My two coaches kept encouraging me and the boys too — it's just great."
The news wasn't all good for Vancouver however, as leading scorer Marlon James went down with a hamstring injury in the 36th minute. James was carted off the pitch on a stretcher, but made his own way to the locker room, not to return. It's expected the key off-season signing will be lost for three to six weeks. An ankle injury caused the St. Vincent and the Grenadines international to miss the first three games of the season.
Gbeke looked to have broken the deadlock early in the game, but his header to the far corner was punched out of harm’s way by Islanders goalie Bill Gaudette in the 20th minute. Earlier this season, the 31-year-old Montreal native had a goal called back against the Thunder in Minnesota and drilled a header off the post against the Portland Timbers in Vancouver's last home game.
"It took him a while to get his first, but we all knew it would come together sooner than later," said Nash, who is the only other Whitecap to score at Swangard Stadium this season. "It was a great header at an important time."
Vancouver was the more dangerous of the two sides all night — well, except for a 10-minute lull early in the second half — with the Whitecaps’ aggressive, attacking style creating trouble for the guests, who had played in Austin, Tex., just two nights earlier. The Whitecaps entered the game fresh off a 1-0 loss to MLS's Toronto FC in the opening game of the Nutrilite Canadian Championships on Wednesday. It was the third time Vancouver had been held goalless this season.
"We've been creating a lot of chances, but haven't managed to convert a lot of them, so it's very good to see one go in," said Whitecaps coach Teitur Thordarson, a striker in his playing days. "It's good for our confidence and it's good for Charles' confidence. I have been in a similar situation so I said slow down and continue to play and the goals will come."
The 1-0 victory, played in front of 5,023 fans, puts the Whitecaps alone atop the USL-1 standings with a 3-1-2 record, although Puerto Rico, Charleston Battery and Rochester Rhinos all hold a game in hand.
• The Whitecaps Prospects Men's team suffered a 3-1 defeat to Surrey United in Pacific Coast Soccer League action at SFU while the women's prospects earned a 0-0 draw against the defending PCSL women's champions Victoria Stars on Saturday.