Courtesy of Joaquin Hernandez | Concacaf.com
BAYAMON, Puerto Rico – Second-half substitute Mauricio Copete scored in the 68th minute to lift Olimpia to a 1-1 draw against the Puerto Rico Islanders on Tuesday, opening the Group Stage of the CONCACAF Champions League.
The result continued the home frustration in the Champions League for Puerto Rico, which won five of six home games and reached the semifinals in the inaugural championship two years ago but have gone winless at Ramon Loubriel in the six games since.
Olimpia was making its third appearance in the Champions League and returned to the Group Stage after being eliminated in the Preliminary Round last year by Panama’s Arabe Unido.
Copete scored after a play that started on the right and involved a series of one-touch passing among five players before the 26-year-old Colombian forward slipped the ball through the legs of Islanders goalkeeper Bill Gaudette.
Puerto Rico appealed for an offside call, but to no avail, only adding to their frustration that started with a sodden field. A day-long rain that ended only about 90 minutes before kickoff left standing water in several places, most prominently on the touchline near the benches and made play challenging.
The pitch was muddy and deteriorated through the match, with balls skidding to a halt in the standing water and players repeatedly slipping and falling.
Despite the conditions, Puerto Rico controlled for the first 15 minutes, generating three corners and twice hitting the post in quick succession. A turnover at the top of Olimpia’s defensive third caused by the soft ground enabled the Islanders to drive at goal in the sixth minute and Josh Hansen’s right-footed drive from the top of the area skipped before it hit the left post.
Olimpia Goalkeeper Noel Valladares tried to slap away the rebound but only was able to get fingers to it, sending it to the six where David Foley leaped to head it off the crossbar.
The Honduran side finally adjusted to the conditions, and began to take control after 15 minutes. Gaudette was required to make several saves, the most dramatic a diving block on a Johnny Palacios drive from inside the area in the 24th.
Puerto Rico finally reclaimed control and went ahead in the 40th minute, taking the lead when Nicholas Addlery redirected David Foley’s cross with his right heal past Valladares.
It was Addlery’s third goal of the tournament, giving him a share of the scoring lead, and seventh in the three seasons of the competition.
The match was the fifth in 10 days for Puerto Rico, who upset the Los Angeles Galaxy in the Preliminary Round, and comes amid a stretch that will have the Islanders play eight games in 24 days.
Puerto Rico will remain home for the second round of the Group Stage next week against CD FAS while Olimpia will travel to Mexico to face Toluca.