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Victory ties Islanders in Puerto Rico

July 20, 2007 - USL First Division (USL-1) - California Victory News Release


BAYAMON, PR (July 20, 2007) -- The California Victory took a point on the road Friday night, tying the Puerto Rico Islanders 1-1 at Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium, Puerto Rico, in Fox Soccer Channel's game of the week.

After a scrappy first half, the Islanders took a 67th minute lead through Alejandro Gonzalez' free kick, but Josh Hansen's superb strike -- his fifth of the season -- leveled the game 13 minutes from time.

The tie puts the Victory back on equal terms with second-to-last Minnesota, and keeps the Californians in the hunt for a top-eight playoff spot.

At the onset the Islanders did plenty to exploit a shaky start for the Victory defense, -- who were perhaps rattled by the noisy, humid atmosphere -- and just seconds from kickoff a Puerto Rico header inched over the bar.

Moments later the Victory's Luis Aguliar gave away the ball on the edge of the box, and though Puerto Rico managed to get a shot off, it careened off the post and away to safety.

California threatened in the 17th minute when Jose Retiz fired in a dangerous free kick toward goal, but nobody could get on the end of it.

This left Puerto Rico 'keeper Josh Saunders to quickly launch a counter-attack, but Aguilar timed a tackle perfectly to squelch the effort and atone for his previous error.

The Victory rearguard was lucky in the 21st minute when Alberto Delgado broke free and attempted to lob 'keeper Eric Reed, but his chip went wide.

Overall it was an ugly first half for both teams, with nasty tackles flying in from both sides and neither team finding much headway beyond the congested midfield. But while the first period was cagey, the second half opened up somewhat into a back-and-forth affair that could have gone either way.

The Victory dodged a bullet in the 60th minute after the Islanders hit the post again -- this time through Jay Needham, who turned his side-footer onto the woodwork after Delgado headed across goal.

Yet despite a handful of chances to score from open play, it was a set-piece in the 77th minute that provided the Islanders their score.

Hugo Casillas had committed a needless foul at the edge of the box -- something that has plagued the Victory all season -- leaving Alejandro Gonzalez to step up and curl his free kick around the wall and into the net.

And when Petter Villegas broke free and rounded Eric Reed minutes later, it looked likely the Islanders would double their lead -- but the forward missed the open goal and instead found side netting.

However, the Victory's Josh Hansen tied it all up with an outrageous solo effort in the 77th minute.

California's top-scorer broke through two defenders wide left of the goal before forcing home a wicked shot from a tight angle, a beauty of strike that no doubt will contend for the United Soccer Leagues Goal of the Week.

Victory head coach Glenn Van Straatum, who earlier this week said he was only interested in collecting wins, sought to provide an offensive spark by bringing on back-up 'keeper Dominik Jakubek for his third-straight game as an outfield player. The energetic number-one looked surprisingly threatening on more than one occasion, and even stunned one defender with a step-over on the edge of the box.

But at the final whistle the game was tied, and while the home side may feel they deserved more, the Victory can be pleased with the single point eked out under tough conditions.

The Victory (3-10-6, 15 points) next travels to Florida to take on Zinho's Miami FC, while the Islanders (5-4-7, 23 points) next play at home against the other expansion side, the Carolina RailHawks. Both games are on Sunday and can be seen live at www.usllive.com.

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