USL News Release
Saturday, October 11, 2008
VANCOUVER, BC – United Soccer Leagues announced the league’s top honors for the 2008 USL First Division season honoring Charleston’s Osvaldo Alonso as the Rookie of the Year and a trio from Puerto Rico with Colin Clarke as Coach of the Year, Cristian Arrieta as Defender of the Year and Jonathan Steele as Most Valuable Player.
Puerto Rico’s achievements on the field led to unprecedented success in the honors announced at the USL-1 Championship banquet as the Islanders became the first team in league history to take home three of the four honors, surpassing numerous teams who had only received two.
The exception among the honors unveiled Saturday was Cuban defector Osvaldo Alonso of the Charleston Battery, who received the Rookie of the Year award. Alonso cemented his role in the Battery’s starting line-up after impressive performances during the pre-season Carolina Challenge Cup and went on to contribute four goals and two assists in 23 regular season games for the Battery. Alonso defected from the Cuban national team last July during the 2007 Gold Cup. A native of San Cristóbal, Cuba, Alonso is the former captain of the Cuban Olympic team, was capped 17 times for the full national team and scored 2 goals.
Arrieta burst onto the scene in his first year in the league to earn the Defender of the Year award after several seasons in the lower divisions of Italian soccer. Arrieta helped lead the club to the best defensive ranking in the league with only 23 goals allowed on the year. The Italian-American, however, contributed just as much to the club offensively with a team leading seven goals, only two coming by way of penalties. He would go on to add an eighth with the semifinal series-winner against Rochester.
Leading the squad was another new addition in Jonathan Steele, who became only the second midfielder to ever earn the league’s Most Valuable Player honor. An award that has traditionally gone to forwards and goalkeepers, Steele joined Seattle Sounders veteran Leighton O’Brien (2002) as the only midfielders to earn the league’s top award.
On his fourth club in five years, Steele find found his stride to help guide the Islanders to the regular season championship and the league’s top offense while finishing as the league’s Assist Leader with 11 on the season in 26 games. He also chipped in for two goals and finished the year tied for 13th in points.
Although he helped lead the expansion RailHawks to the postseason last year, Steele only recorded one assist in 19 games for Carolina. Steele joined the RailHawks after spending two seasons with Rochester after making his professional debut with Syracuse in 2004.
The man that orchestrated Puerto Rico’s rise to the top by bringing in the new players and developing players like Arrieta and Steele into the league’s elite was Colin Clarke, who was recognized as the USL-1 Coach of the Year.
Clarke’s second season with the Islanders started off on the wrong foot with three losses in the first four matches, but they only lost three more times over the course of the remaining 26 games while moving to the top of the table and claiming the Commissioner’s Cup as the regular season champions with a record of 15-6-9 and the league’s top offense and defense.
Included in the club’s impressive campaign are two currently running unbeaten streaks. Since their 1-0 loss July 4 in Miami, the Islanders have not dropped a game on the road, going 7-0-4 with five straight immediately following the initial loss before returning home. They finished the regular season unbeaten in their last 12 (6-0-6) league games dating back to their 2-1 home loss to Seattle August 1, all while participating successfully in the CONCACAF Champions League. The 12-game unbeaten streak ranked third-best in league history behind the runs of 13 by the 2000 Richmond Kickers and the 1998 Rochester Rhinos, who also hold the best consecutive regular season unbeaten streak at 16 extending off the close of the 1997 campaign.