There is a small section of people referring to Puerto Rico Islanders players as “MLS rejects” and inferring that they simply aren’t good enough to go toe-to-toe with “the stars of Major League Soccer” and were therefore cast-off, sent the scrapheap if you will, where they were picked up by lowly USL side Puerto Rico.
Here’s someone you may know, his name is Arsene Wenger, and he’s the manager at Arsenal, one of the world’s biggest clubs.
Wenger has a reputation for picking up “rejects” and using them to win trophies. Here’s another name you may know: Thierry Henry. Henry was named French Young Footballer of the Year in 1996, but after moving from Monaco, Juventus simply didn’t think he was good enough…they “rejected” him. Sold him off to Arsenal, and the rest is history. Henry is not alone in his story. In 1992 a young player named Kevin Phillips was deemed not good enough for Southampton and was released, after a spell at tiny Baldock Town the striker moved to Watford and subsequently Sunderland. In the 1999-2000 season “Super Kev” found the net a gobsmacking 30 times.
These stories of rejection are more an indictment of coaches and scouts than of those players. Indeed, their ability far exceeded what their previous coaches thought about them.
MLS is not immune to this.
Many of these players were never given a fair shake in MLS because of politics, namely because they’re from outside of the US, or in the case of Bill Gaudette fell victim to salary cap rules.
Sandi Gbandi, who notched a goal and an assist last night, never even got a shot.
The “rejects” in question are Jamaican international Nicholas Addlery, Trinidad and Tobago international Osei Telesford, and the aforementioned Gbandi. These players have a combined thirteen
MLS appearances, most of them (eleven) made by Addlery. They were never given a fair chance. I know the purpose of Major League Soccer is to develop Americans, but too many times we see poor, poor Americans (see: the Los Angeles Galaxy) given chance after chance when young foreign talents are quickly cast aside.
In fact, these “rejects” did something the “stars of Major League Soccer” have never done. They went to Costa Rica and won. I don’t care about that Mexico stat. You can argue yourself
breathless about altitude. Alajuela is lower than Denver and Salt Lake. Yell about pollution. Costa Rica is the cleanest country in the western hemisphere, in fact, it aims to be carbon neutral by 2021. The country, not a city, the country. There is no excuse for Costa Rica, which is why
Puerto Rico won there, which is why Puerto Rico didn’t beat Carmelita, San Carlos, or Puntarenas…they beat Alajuelense, they knocked out the heavyweight champion. These rejects knocked out Costa Rica’s George Foreman.
I’m not going to say the USL is better than MLS, it isn’t. But the league isn’t a joke, and to arrogantly dismiss it’s players as rejects when your own players are getting stomped (Joe Public 6-1 New England) is insulting.
Puerto Rico haven’t defeated Cruz Azul yet, they still have a ton of work to do and indeed it could all fall apart. But they have shown heart, desire, and passion. They may be winning ugly, but they’re winning. If Puerto Rico marches on, and they very well may, these “rejects” could line up against Barcelona, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, or another giant come
Who needs Beckham when you’ve got Noah Delgado?