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2008: Vancouver wins second USL-1 title
Midseason trade acquisition Gbeke scores both in 2-1 victory

USL News Release

Sunday, October 12, 2008

BURNABY, BC – The final day of June may have been the most important day of the season in contributing to the second championship in three years for the Vancouver Whitecaps in the final day of the USL First Division season Sunday as Charles Gbeke, who was acquired in a trade that day, scored both goals in the club’s 2-1 victory over the Puerto Rico Islanders.

Both clubs had chances as they probed for an opening tally in the first half, but the game would go to the break scoreless. Eleven minutes into the second frame, however, Gbeke would rise above the crowd for his first.

Gbeke lost to Vancouver in the 2006 championship (Bob Frid)Alfredo Valente drove a low corner into the box in the 56th minute that forced Jeff Clarke to lower his head on the near side, popping the ball up into the air to the far post, where Gbeke rose above his marker Cristian Arrieta to head the winner into the far side netting.

A match-up of the league’s top two defensive squads made minimized the number of quality scoring chances, but the Islanders would find the equalizer just moments after Vancouver had a great chance to go up two.

The Vancouver chance to double the lead came in the 68th when Martin Nash sent a ball across the field and deep to Valente on left flank. He drove further up the field before giving it to Steve Kindel, who crossed it into the box, where the wide open 17-year old Ethan Gage tried to one-time it on frame from 14 yards only to see it fly wide.

A minute later at the other end the Islanders leveled the game courtesy of Sandy Gbandi. Well up the field on the left flank, defender Scott Jones sent it inward five yards to captain Noah Delgado, who sent a cross into the box where several Puerto Rico players awaited the chance. Gbandi headed in the equalizer to the side netting from eight yards out in the center of the box.

The tie would only last four minutes for Puerto Rico though.

Veterans Sebrango and Clarke celebrate the club’s second title (Bob Frid)Gbeke again put the Whitecaps on top with another header. Nash sent a throw-in from deep on the right side to the top corner of the penalty area, where Justin Moose took and drove along the edge of the box toward the end line before sending a cross into the six. Gbeke rose out of the crowd for the 73rd minute tally that held on as the winner and earned the Ivory Coast native the USL-1 Championship MVP honor.

Having previously been on the wrong side of Vancouver’s first championship as a member of the Rochester Rhinos, who fell 3-0 at home two years ago in the final, Gbeke was the Montreal Impact’s leading scorer in 2007 with 10 strikes. But with only one goal through 12 games in 2008, the Impact sent him to Vancouver for his fourth stint with the club in his career in exchange for Tony Donatelli, who had scored in the championship for Vancouver two years ago.

The Whitecaps championship helped negate the nation’s sour news from the day before when the Canadian national team was eliminated from contention in FIFA World Cup Qualifying as they lost 3-1 in Honduras in the semifinal stage of CONCACAF qualifying. Vancouver joins the Seattle Sounders, Rochester Rhinos, Montreal Impact, Milwaukee Rampage and Colorado Foxes as teams who have won the league title two or more times.

The victory capped a wonderful season that saw numerous USL First Division clubs post successful seasons, giving the Whitecaps a secondary claim as Canada’s top club despite previously finishing third in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship despite a win and draw against Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC. A pair of losses to Montreal, combined with the Impact’s loss and draw against Toronto saw their USL-1 rivals go through to the CONCACAF Champions League, where the Impact are only one point away from a shocking advancement from the group stage to the quarterfinals.

(Bob Frid)Puerto Rico now turns it attention back to the CONCACAF Champions League, where they share the lead in their group and have a good chance of advancing to the quarterfinals as well.

The Canadians and Islanders were not the only clubs on the year to find success on the year though as the USL First Division firmly planted a claim as one of CONCACAF’s top four or five leagues along with the Mexican first division, Major League Soccer and the Costa Rican top flight.

The Seattle Sounders for the second consecutive year reached the US Open Cup Semifinals, advancing past MLS sides a combined four times. The Charleston Battery reached the tournament championship game by advancing past defending MLS Cup Champion Houston at home and FC Dallas on the road before falling 2-1 to DC in the nation’s championship in the nation’s capital.

Additional Highlights:
- In the 14th minute Gbeke got the ball with his back to goal, quickly turned and fired from 24 yards only to see the line drive go right to Puerto Rico goalkeeper Bill Gaudette.
- In the 19th minute, a ball was sent into the box from Jonathan Steele, but Sandy Gbandi was unable to put his header on frame as it sailed high from 12 yards.
- Eduardo Sebrango snuck into the box in the 20th minute on a diagonal run and had an excellent chance, but Gaudette came out and knocked away the quick shot.
- In the 28th minute Noah Delgado was streaking up the left flank and crossed it squarely into the box with Petter Villegas leaving the ball for Taiwo Atieno on with a dummy, but Atieno’s strike would be gathered by goalkeeper Jay Nolly.
- A defensive miscue allowed a chance late in the 40th as Martin Nash got the ball just outside the box and slipped it forward to Justin Moose, whose attempt from a narrow angle as he charged toward the endline hit the side netting.
- In the 44th minute, Nash crossed the ball all the way to the opposite side of the box from the right flank to Sebrango, who headed it back to the right side of the goal. But Gbeke’s header did not have enough on it to get it past Gaudette at the near post.
- On the turn of the 60th minute, a header from Sebrango from just outside the six soared just wide of goal.

USL FIRST DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIP SUMMARY 

Puerto Rico Islanders at Vancouver Whitecaps 1:2
Swangard Stadium Sunday, October 12, 2008 7:00 pm EDT
Weather: Sunny Attendance: 5822

Summary:
VAN: Charles Gbeke (Jeff Clarke) 55
PR: Sandy Gbandi (Noah Delgado) 68
VAN: Charles Gbeke (Justin Moose) 74

Cautions
VAN: Steve Kindel 71

Referees: Mark Kadlecik, Daniel Belleau, Armano De Luca, Paul Ward
 

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