JRL – The Central American Cemetery
There is a place in Bayamón, Puerto Rico that has a funny nickname: “The Central American Cemetery”. Funny because the island is not in Central America (C.A.), and because this place is not a cemetery. It is the Juan Ramón Loubriel stadium, home to the Puerto Rico Islanders.
The JRL got this nickname due to the amazing success that the Islanders had in 2008 in the first stage of the first ever CONCACAF Champions League, where champion after champion from the C.A. region kept falling one after the other to the feet of the island’s humble USL soccer team.
The first C.A. champion to fall to the Islanders was Costa Rica’s 2-time CONCACAF Champion’s Cup winner Liga Alajuelence (2-1) in the preliminary stage. Then in the group stage came Panama’s 5-time champion Tauro FC by the same score (2-1); and the current Mexican champion Santos Laguna (3-1) from North Central America…
The last burial at JRL last year was Guatemala’s 5-time champion Municipal by a 0-1 score in the Islanders’ 2008 home closer. Hold on! You may wonder… The Islanders didn’t win that game. True, Municipal was the only C.A. team to actually get a positive result against the Islanders at JRL. But how positive was it? Not good enough. As faith had it at the time, Municipal needed to defeat the Islanders by a 2-0 score to stay alive in Group D action; so with their 1-0 win, the Guatemalan’s got eliminated from the tournament. Municipal was the only team to get their hopes buried at JRL with a win.
2009 started with the visit of the CD Marathon powerhouse. The reigning Honduran champion, and winner of the “Group of Death“, came for the 1st-leg of the Champions League Quarterfinals to celebrate in the “Enchanted Island”. But to the Hondurans, Borinquen was not “Enchanted” at all! Marathon, by all means the favourite to finish off the Islanders Cinderella run, was extinguished 2-1 by the Puerto Ricans; making the Hondurans to become the 5th C.A. champion’s ghost to haunt the halls of the JRL.
Who’s ghost will be next…