Monday October 31 2011
Edwin R. Jusino | Desde la Tribuna

 It was a night most soccer fans will never forget; Friday October 7th 2011, the Puerto Rico National Team had just tied with the St. Kitts and Nevis squad, which meant certain elimination from the World Cup Qualifiers. A result that crushes yet another generation’s dream of watching the national team play a World Cup finals tournament.

Even though the night began very hopeful, with young striker Andrés Cabrero opening the scoreboard on the first half, Saint Kitts and Nevis managed to tie the game, almost eliminating the Blue Hurricane from the World Cup Qualifiers for Brasil 2014; Canada would eliminate the National Team 4 days later with a simple goalless tie on Toronto.

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Terry Boss

The squad faced trouble since the beginning, when the main starting goalkeeper, Terry Boss from the Major League Soccer (MLS) squad, Seattle Sounders, got a concussion on the first match against Saint Kitts and Nevis and was unable to repeat. Eric Reyes was call up for the Canada game.

Unfortunately Reyes, who plays for Florida International University (FIU) varsity squad, was unable to repeat as FIU did not grant permission for the young goalkeeper to star once again for Puerto Rico; this allowed young Brandon Saldaña, who studies on Amherst College, to star the last two matches.

According to many knowledgeable Puerto Rican Football Federation (FPF) officials, the results against Saint Kitts and Canada proves that Puerto Rico still has a lot to go before we can see our squad play a FIFA World Cup Finals tournament. One of those is Marcelo Cavanna, a member of the National Teams Commission of the FPF and president of the local “Alianza Indios-Yaguez” club that operates from the Central American Stadium in Mayaguez. Though Cavanna is argentine by birth, he has a serious passion for the local sport, and was elected to the FPF Executive Committee last December, during the Federation’s elections assembly.

National Team posing for picture against St. Kitts

Cavanna’s opinion is that the Federation needs to work closer with the Interuniversity Athletics League of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (LAI) to create a system where the local Universities contribute more to helping develop players for the National Team. “We want to meet with the league to see ways in which we can integrate the LAI into the National Teams system” said the executive committeeman.

“It is very difficult for us to convoke the National Team, bring players from the States and elsewhere; we’re working to get a system running with youth, amateur, and Universities. Most players opt to go to the States to study, which poses a problem for us, as we need to be asking permission of the different Universities to have those players come and represent their country” continued Cavanna.

Cavanna’s vision is for the Federation to help the LAI improve its quality of play. Many of the different LAI coaches have applauded the proposal brought up by Cavanna. Temo López, Athletic Director of the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras and the men’s Varisty Soccer coach of said institution, agrees with Cavanna, but has expressed concern that more needs to be done, not just for the National Team, but for soccer in the island in general.

“I think it is a very important step, but we also need to use all the FPF resources available for the Universities so that we can continue to build, not only on infrastructure, but on equipment, training, refereeing. It’s a macro union that has to be done so that we can go forward” said Lopez.