USL Feature By Peter Kidd
August 6, 2010
The Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium was rocking Wednesday night, as the Puerto Rico Islanders squared off against the Los Angeles Galaxy in a CONCACAF Champions League Preliminary Round matchup.
With a sellout record crowd of 12,993 in attendance at “La Meca”, Islanders supporters were treated to a spectacle unlike anything seen this season.
The previous attendance record at Juan Ramón Loubriel was 12,751 fans on March 17, 2009, who watched the Islanders defeat Mexican giant Cruz Azul in the first leg of 2009 Champions League Semifinals.
“The place was mobbed,” Islanders co-owner Stuart Klapper said. “And the thing about it was there were people I had never seen at a game before. At the gift shop, Islanders jerseys and scarves were flying off the shelves and there were lines of people waiting everywhere you looked. It was an amazing sight.”
On the field, the Islanders lost to the Galaxy, 2-1. Still, Puerto Rico advanced on aggregate, 5-3. This marks the third consecutive year Los Mata Gigantes (The Giant Killers) have made it to the Champions League Group Stage.
From the very beginning, the Puerto Rican fans were into the game, Klapper said.
“The game started, and LA was not able to do anything against our defense,” he said. “Before you knew it, 20 minutes, then 30 minutes went by without a goal. Then we scored on a penalty kick in the 33rd minute from David Foley, and the stadium started shaking with celebrations. It was incredible; at that moment, the Galaxy needed five goals to advance.”
LA equalized on a Puerto Rico own goal minutes later, but would continue to stay on level terms with the Islanders after a string of acrobatic saves by Puerto Rico goalkeeper Bill Gaudette. The Galaxy’s Sean Franklin scored in the 84th minute, but it would not be enough.
Following the match, the Puerto Rican crowd gave a warm reception to LA’s World Cup stars, Klapper said.
“As Edson Buddle and Landon Donovan walked off the field, the fans gave them a standing ovation,” he said. “Donovan looked especially touched by this gesture. The fans could have easily booed the Galaxy, but it was not like that at all. The Puerto Rico supporters showed a tremendous amount of class.
“Landon also gave a post-match interview in Spanish with a television network, which was really something,” Klapper said. “It was just an incredibly special night and I am so proud of the team for doing ourselves and United Soccer Leagues well.”