CONCACAF Champions League upstarts Puerto Rico are at home to face one of Mexico’s top teams.
Puerto Rico Islanders (PRI) v Santos Laguna (MEX) (Group D)
When: Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Where: Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium, Bayamón, Puerto Rico.
Group D will see a Tuesday game between the group leaders, as Santos Laguna of Mexico travel to Puerto Rico to take on the Islanders. Each team took care of their business at home in the first group game and now Santos will try to pick up valuable road points with a win over USL-1’s top team.
The Islanders just keep shocking people. The Puerto Rican representative did away with LD Alajuelense of Costa Rica in the preliminary round, a huge upset by CONCACAF standards, to get into the group stage and as an encore, they beat Panama’s Tauro F.C. 2-1 in the first group game. The team now sits primed to take control of Group D if they can pull off another upset by beating Santos Laguna.
The Mexicans better come into the game ready for a battle. The Islanders play a solid full team game with a roster that does not boast a top-five USL scorer yet continues to lead the league in goals scored and fewest goals allowed. The mixture of young talent and veteran leadership includes 32-year-old former MetroStar Peter Villegas, who scored against Tauro, 29-year-old defender Christian Arrieta who spent years playing second division soccer in Italy and leads the team in scoring, 22-year-old midfielder Jonathan Steele who leads the team in assists, and Kendall Jagdeosingh, whose goal against Tauro proved to be the game winner.
Manager Colin Clarke, formerly boss at FC Dallas, has the boys from the island playing a nice brand of soccer and a win over Laguna would turn a lot of heads.
The Guerreros won’t be scared of Puerto Rico, though. They are one of Mexico’s current giants. However, they struggled in their group opener, going two goals up on C.D. Municipal, then surrendering the lead, only to win on a 90th minute strike from Matias Vuoso.
The 26-year-old Vuoso teams with 22-year-old Christian Benitez to form one of the most dangerous attacking tandems in the competition. Benitez, the 2008 Mexican Clausura MVP, is an outstanding young talent who also scored against Municipal. Goalkeeper and captain Oswaldo Sanchez and Argentine defender Fernando Ortiz anchor for the solid Laguna back line.
A trip to Puerto Rico may have looked like an easy victory for Laguna before the Islanders started beating CONCACAF powers, but the Mexicans must be better prepared than last time out. Allowing Municipal back into their first game was a mistake, but a loss to a USL team in the Champions league would be far worse. A win on the road would give Laguna a lead in the group and a favorable schedule for them to advance to the knockout stages.
Players to watch
Puerto Rico: Kendall Jagdeosingh. The 22-year-old striker from Trinidad seems to be finding his form in the CCL. The home team will need some magic to beat Laguna and Jagedeosingh could be the one to bring it for them.
Santos Laguna: Francisco Torres. An electric midfielder, the 25-year-old Mexican has the ability to break down opposing defenses with crisp passing and slashing runs from the middle of the field or a wide position.
Prediction: Puerto Rico Islanders 0-2 Santos Laguna
— Allen Ramsey, Goal.com