Bayamon, PR - In a possible NASL Championship match preview, the Puerto Rico Islanders (14-7-6, 49 points) handed the NASL Regular Season Champions the Carolina RailHawks (17-7-3, 54 points) their third straight defeat on Saturday night.
Meeting for the final time this season, both playoff bound teams battled each other to a standstill with a flurry of defensive stops and solid goalkeeping. The Islanders were finally able to penetrate the RailHawks defense when Petter Villegas scored the game winner in the 57th minute of the match.
Saturday night's victory marked the third time that the Islanders have defeated the RailHawks. In four head to head matches, the Islanders have outscored the RailHawks 5-4. While the Islanders have three of four victories against Carolina, the RailHawks still maintain the best record in the NASL.
Following their victory over the RailHawks, the Islanders remain undefeated at the Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium. With one more game remaining, the Islanders will have the opportunity to finish the regular season undefeated at home when they host FC Tampa Bay on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011.
The Islanders victory was the icing on the cake as the organization dedicated Saturday night as an evening to demonstrate their commitment to the Puerto Rican Community by honoring the past and raising awareness for the present.
Prior to the match, the Islanders honored an individual who may possibly the Father of Puerto Rican Soccer, Juan "Saso" Tulier. It was 60 years ago when Saso played and later coached the Puerto Rican national team for 28 years.
Now his late 70s, Saso continues to coach young men as he tries to help some of them get to college on soccer scholarships. Still in remarkable shape, Saso not only trains his young players, he also physically trains with them. While many may not know of the iconic manager, he is one unknown hero who will leave a legacy of Puerto Rican soccer.
“As believers in community outreach and social responsibility its truly an honor to have Saso Tullie kick the kick of honor to start the match. Tullio was responsible for expanding the game of soccer across the island especially in Humacao, Manabo and Naguabo. The greatness of this soccer ambassador was exalted in the Sports Hall of Fame in Puerto Rico,” said Jorge Pierluisi, vice president of the Islanders.
In addition to honoring Saso, the Islanders also welcomed the nonprofit foundation for children with autism Golitos as they were officially inaugurated on Saturday night. Golitos is intended to contribute to the full physical, social and emotional development of children with Autism provided by football sports therapy through structured training sessions.
With one more game remaining in the NASL regular season, the Islanders are in position to give their supporters, the Orange Troop will have the opportunity to win their first NASL Championship and second consecutive Division-2 Championship.
Other NASL results from Saturday Night
FC Tampa Bay (10-8-8, 38 points) battled the NSC Minnesota Stars (8-10-9, 36 points) to a 1-1 draw.
Cesar Diaz covers Soccer for LatinoSports.com. He also writes for 5 Points Press & USSoccerPlayers.com ; your source for American Soccer news brought to you by members of the U.S. National Team. Easily accessible, you may reach Cesar at firstname.lastname@example.org and at Twitter at @CoveringSoccer.