The Puerto Rico Islanders are making a name for Puerto Rican soccer. Already, the Boricua team has made history advancing to the Semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League becoming the first team from the baseball-loving island to make it this far.
But the feisty, hard-working and athletic team does not want to stop there. They want to make it to the finals. In order to do that, they must first defeat Mexican powerhouse, Cruz Azul.
Luckily for the Boricuas, "Los Cementeros" (the cement makers) of Cruz Azul are going through a tough stretch suffering a humiliating defeat against America, a fellow Mexican club, 3-1, in ther most recent outing.
"Los Cementeros" are currently literally playing like cement makers, not soccer makers.
As a result, the Boricuas, playing at home (this Tuesday, March 17th) at Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, have the intangibles pointing in their favor. The second match of the two-game series is scheduled for April 7 at Estadio Azul in Mexico City.
How do we explain the impressive success of this little USL team that could?
A big part of the answer has to do with the work of head coach Colin Clarke, a former Ireland National Team international and former coach of FC Dallas of MLS and several other USL teams. (More about Clarke at a later article). With the savvy Clarke at the helm, the otherwise naive Puerto Rican club would have been easy pray for sophisticated CONCACAF clubs.
One more important item to note is that The Puerto Rico Islanders are the ONLY non-Mexican club still standing in the Semifinals stage of the most important club competition in North America, Central America and the Caribbean. All the Major League Soccer clubs have bit the dust, including reigning champions Houston Dynamo and former champions, D.C. United.
This makes the Boricuas' accomplishment that much more impressive.
Players to watch:
Kendall Jagdeosingh, the Trinidad and Tobago born striker is terribly erratic. But, when he is on, he is on in a big, big way! Tremendous speed, ability to find the open shot, and a cannon on both legs.
Nicholas Addlery. The Jamaican forward exudes technical prowess, strength, dribbling ability and that coolness that cannot be learned but comes naturally to great strikers to finish plays and put the ball behind the net.
Addlery played for DC United of MLS in 2007 and still calls The Bronx, New York, home.
To catch the action tune in to either Galavision or Telefutura.
(Photo: Peter Villegas, formerly of the NY-NJ MetroStars, now plays for Puerto Rico's best club, Puerto Rico Islanders).