Mexican Soccer

CONCACAF Champions League: Puerto Rico falls in penalties

Bill Gaudette (Reuters)   

The Puerto Rico Islanders had a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League final in range, but let the chance slip away.

Leading Cruz Azul by two goals on aggregate, the USL-1 club had to love its chances when Cruz Azul had midfielder Christian Riveros sent off in the first half, but much like fellow USL-1 club Montreal did in the quarterfinals, the Islanders crumbled under the pressure of the Mexican club.

Cruz Azul scored a goal in each half, first from Pablo Zeballos and then the equalizer from Javier Orozco, before eliminating Puerto Rico in penalty kicks.

The defeat ends a dream run through the Champions League for a Puerto Rico side few would have given a chance to advance past the group stage, let alone come within penalty kicks of reaching the final. The Islanders' performance, as well as that of Montreal, brought well-deserved respect to the USL, which has more people interested in it than ever before.

What did you think of Puerto Rico's tournament run? Did you come away with a new-found respect for the USL? Think the Islanders should have pulled out a win vs. Cruz Azul? Think USL teams can repeat their success in the next CONCACAF Champions League Tournament?

Share your thoughts below.

  • Paul Lorinczi

    I blame the manager.

    You can’t defend for 90 minutes.

    Simple rule in the game, “you control the ball, you control the game.”

    PR did not control the ball for much of the game. They kept dropping further and further into their box. You could see it coming each time they scored.

    I call it the coach that over coached himself.


  • johnny2

    I was rooting for them…unfortunately that had to be the worst game I’ve seen them play…They were a different team…oh well back to the RedBulls mess.


  • East River

    I agree PR should have attacked, they did apply some pressure in the last 20 minutes of the 2nd half but the damage was done. Still the Islanders did not give up 5 goals like Houston or DC or Montreal all have in past knock Concacaf games. Gaudette did all he could do in last night game and give the Islanders credit for not giving up and having the nerve the actually score an overtime goals. But PRI was clearly sucking air in the 2nd half, I mean their passes were just dieing on them revealing this fact. Still they gutted it out and Gaudette got his hand on the first penalty kick. They earned my respect and hopefully we will see some of the Islanders and their coach move on to play and coach in MLS and MFL.


  • DC Josh

    Having seen them for the first time last night, I thought they looked horrible.

    They bunkered in, had no team chemistry, horrible marking, no communication.

    They should be in the finals, but the Mexican teams will reign supreme in an international tourney again.

    I thought United looked bad earlier, but Puerto Rico showed another level of suck. Props to them making it to the semi’s. It’s a LONG tourney, and they and Montreal made excellent runs. I hope the success translates to the US Open Cup. I’m all for American soccer getting better.


  • Dave N

    Among the worst defensive performances I’ve ever seen from a professional side. Both the left back and the right back would have struggled to make my Sunday league team and there seemed to be zero interest in contesting a single 50-50 ball all night. They were extraordinarily lucky to take that match to extra time. That said, does anyone know the justification for abandoning the away-goals rule in extra time?



  • Rand Swenson

    My big questions is why ALL of the second legs in the cup ties were played in Mexico? This is an advantage, and the chances that it was random are just about nil…


  • Dave

    Dave N: As was explained to me, away goals don’t count in extra time of a two-legged tie, because one team shouldn’t be allowed 120 minutes to get a vital away goal while the other team only had 90. Thus, if it’s tied on aggregate at the end of regular time, it’s wide open.

    I went to bed before extra time. The Islanders were playing a horrible brand of negative football, and I couldn’t watch any more of it. They deserved to lose like that for not attacking once in the first 85 minutes.


  • SoulShadow


    The reason for abandoning the aways goal rule in extra time is because if you have it, the away team in the second leg is given an extra thirty minutes to come up with the away goal (effectively, the second-leg away team would have 120 minutes to get away goals while the second-leg home team has only had 90). It’s the way to balance out that advantage.

    In all honesty, Cruz Azul was clearly the better side last night. It wasn’t just that PRI defended for most of the time, they made awful decisions in the attack. Their passing was extremely poor and they were only in it because of Gaudette. I know people are saying Colin Clarke over-coached himself by playing defensively, but in truth, the Islanders never looked capable of having possession even when they tried to do so. Keep in mind they played a man up for nearly ninety minutes. Could you imagine what would have happened had they faced a full eleven for that time?



  • Luke in NC

    We gotta do something about these all-Mexican finals and nearly-all-Mexican semi-finals….


  • MVK

    I tuned in in extra time and saw the shots taken by Cruz Azul, more like a FIFA09 stat than an actually game, it was like 20; and they were down a man for over a half? Crazy

    Please MLS teams grow some and do well in this tourney next time.


  • Modibo

    Ives – was Riveros sent off? That’s what I think the sentence about him should read but it’s not clear – “Cruz Azul had midfielder Christian Riveros in the first half.”



  • arkjayback

    I’m all for respect for the American soccer leagues, but I’ll admit that I’m happy that the USL is finally done. Believe me, I’ll give a ton of props to both Puerto Rico and Montreal, they represented the USL very well. But I know that if a USL team even made it to the final of the CCL, we would never hear the end of it.

    Anyone who has seen the two leagues play knows that MLS is separated from USL by its star players, but USL probably has better depth. So while I respect what the Islanders have done, I’m glad that they weren’t able to go all the way and truly embarass MLS.


  • cbr

    it reminded me of the redbulls-chicago game.(except with goals) you really couldnt tell which team was playing up a man


  • Dave N


    Thanks. I guess that makes sense, but it seems to me keeping the away-goals rule in extra time would do a little to combat the huge advantage the second leg home team already enjoys.


  • Steve

    They got what they deserved last night unfortunately. They didn’t even try to possess the ball and the only reason they didn’t get absolutely creamed is they were up a man (on a ridiculously bad red card by the way).

    Bunkering in to that degree is saying you’re not good enough to play. The only reason that it can be forgiven would be conditioning and battling the smog and altitiude of Mexico City. But considering PR is not in season they could have gone to Mexico a week ago and acclimated to a degree teams never have a luxury to do.

    Considering they don’t know when they will ever be in this position again I feel I tuned into watch a club waste an opportunity to do something big. Nice run but it will be forgotten by most very soon.


  • Juan-John

    What does it say when a 10-man Mexican team is better than an 11-man U.S. one?

    The game was lost when the lineups were submitted. A five-man back line??? Are you frakking kidding me?


  • Dudinho

    @ Luke

    We gotta do something about these all-Mexican finals and nearly-all-Mexican semi-finals….

    Posted by: Luke in NC | April 08, 2009 at 08:57 AM

    umm yeah like telling MLS to raise the salary cap to compete with the mexican league. And Getting coaching that actually tells their players to control the ball and play instead of bunker like countless MLS teams have. Get used to it for a long time i think this is the third or fourth straight Mexican final.


  • Jeff

    ” Anyone who has seen the two leagues play knows that MLS is separated from USL by its star players, but USL probably has better depth. ”

    That’s the point I always make which is why either MLS has to raise the cap or has no chance of ever competing in CONCACAF. USL teams have better depth created by MLS teams having to consistently cut serviceable players thanks to the cap.

    Clarke has been an attacking manager for most of his time in this country- both at Dallas and Puerto Rico. But last night was a typical, and I mean typical display when an American team goes to Mexico. So perhaps they achieved a victory by not giving up 5 goals!


  • madmax

    It is great for US soccer to see a USL team play Mexico’s Cruz Azul, a top division team, dead even. Bravo, and Ole.


  • alundis

    It seemed like PRI gave up possession on every goal kick in the second half and beyond. Which team was a man up again?


  • Gene_SF

    PRI had a good run, but this game showed, at least to me, the limits of the idea that USL is somehow equal to MLS. From what I saw yesterday, the Islanders have a couple of somewhat decent attacking players (though not top talent even by MLS standards), an OK goalkepper, and really terrible backline and defense. I mean, they feautre Kyle Varis on defense, that should tell you all you need to know about the level of play.


  • scott47a

    I’m glad for Yankboy and his love for his team. It was a great run.

    But I am also very glad the Islanders lost last night. Any team that plays nearly 120 minutes of 11-men-behind-the-ball, bunkered-in soccer should lose. Frankly I wanted them to lose on style points alone. I don’t even think you can call what they did “playing soccer.” They weren’t even really playing, just standing around and trying to clear balls — for a full game. Brutal.


  • Supsam

    What lesson did USL learn yesterday? The tactic of bunkering down does not work these days against quality opposition. I believe that if PRI just stuck to their regular style they would have been pressing a 10 man mexican side. Poor coaching decision by Clark. Being up a man means nothing if you are bunkering down and still giving your opponents hella space.

    As an MLS fan, i actually wanted the two USL sides to go deep into the tournament. Of course it will embarrass MLS, but then again thats not always a bad thing. It would pressure MLS to increase the salary cap and maybe add a couple more senior roster spots for added depth. Plus, it only gives the US open cup more prestige now that the world is more familiar with USL…..and the fact that our B-squads can grind out a result against their A-squads will keep me happy. For all those who say that USL and MLS are very close in quality, i say bullshit. Win the Open Cup MORE THAN ONCE against than i will give the USL more credit.


  • yankiboy

    Supsam: For the record, I support an MLS side and two USL sides so I don’t really have a dog in the fight per se, but maybe you can clarify a point for me, please:

    Were you stating that the MLSB squads can grind out results against the USL A-sides and then quoting USOC history?

    After seeing my local USL2 side take out Red Bull last year and take New England to penalties and seeing DCU lose to a Harrisburgh USL2 side and the MLS scalps that Seattle claimed in last few years and Charleston and even Carolina take out Chicago Fire, seems like some credit is already due. Montreal and Vancouver handling business against Toronto and might just do it again.

    Your point regarding winning is a valid one. The cream usually rises to the top but the gap isn’t as great as some people would like to believe it is. This is coming from a guy who follows all three really closely and in a really spectacular and rare given week might actually make it to see all three levels in person.

    But hey, that is just my take…


  • J H

    Has it ever occurred to you the MLS wins the USOC regularly because the games are held at MLS home stadiums. Later round or title games at USL home stadiums will yield different results.

    Honestly the 4 best player on any MLS team is better than any player in USL. But after that it’s very close- a few injuries to MLS top players and the USL teams are actually better.


  • Tom P

    “I blame the manager.

    You can’t defend for 90 minutes.

    Simple rule in the game, “you control the ball, you control the game.”

    PR did not control the ball for much of the game. They kept dropping further and further into their box. You could see it coming each time they scored.

    I call it the coach that over coached himself”

    a big ditto on the above


  • madmax

    It’s good to see a USL team take a Mexican first division club into extra time.

    Bravo and Ole.


  • Fred Smilek

    That game was poorly managed. They deserved to lose

    The Society to Save Endangered Species was formed by Fred Smilek and two of his colleagues; Charlie Mack & Jonathan Korny. Fred Smilek stays active in raising awareness for this cause. [www.fredjsmilek.com]


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