World Soccer: Puerto Rico sweeps Bermuda - 'General' Clarke undefeated with the National Team: The Puerto Rico national team swept Bermuda 2-0 and 1-0 in the World Cup Qualifiers warm up friendly series played January 16 &18 at the National Sports Centre, in Hamilton, Bermuda.
By José 'BoriQa' Carrillo - Puerto Rico Islanders Newsletter - January 19, 2008 - The Puerto Rico national team, which hasn't played since 2004, is undergoing a renaissance as they build towards a World Cup qualifier against Dominican Republic next March. - Colin 'General' Clarke, who coaches both the USL-1 Puerto Rico Islanders and the Puerto Rico national team, was heard say that the squad had been galvanized by a sense that a genuine national program was starting to come together for the first time in years. He insisted that the national program, which has been dormant for several years, was now starting to experience a revival. - Football in Puerto Rico, where sports like baseball, basketball and volleyball dominate, is making a resurgance with the success of their professional team in United Soccer League. The Puerto Rico Islanders compete in the USL-1 where they reached the play-off semi-finals last year. - "We're not that bad! ... they (the Puerto Rico National Team) have plenty of quality ... their position at the bottom of the pile (FIFA ranking - 196th out of 207 teams) - compared to Bermuda's 146th - has more to do with inactivity than lack of ability." That was what Colin 'General' Clarke told a Bermuda newspaper. - "Bermuda can't take Puerto Rico lightly, despite their lowly world ranking." That was the verdict of Bermuda Football Association President Larry Mussenden, published in the same newspaper. - The result of the two game World Cup Warm Up series proved both Mussenden and the 'General' right! - Puerto Rico shotout Bermuda 2-0 and 1-0, to sweep the friendly series played January 16 &18 at the National Sports Centre, in Hamilton, Bermuda. Puerto Rico outshot Bermuda with a combined 25-18 in the two games. - Bermuda's coach Keith Tucker also said that Puerto Rico was better than their ranking suggested and had been a tough opponent. - Puerto Rico who lost to Bermuda 3-0 in their first and only encounter ever at Havana in 1982, now leads the all time "Bermuda Triangle Edges" race 2 wins to 1, with no ties. (Miami is the 3rd Edge of the Bermuda Triangle, and the Puerto Rico Islanders have their number!) - Bermuda 3:0 Puerto Rico 01/08/1982 HAVANA Friendly - Bermuda 0:2 (0:0) Puerto Rico 16/01/2008 HAMILTON Friendly - Bermuda 0:1 (0:1) Puerto Rico 18/01/2008 HAMILTON Friendly - The friendly series were part of the warm up games for the World Cup qualifiers where Puerto Rico will face the Dominican Republic and Bermuda will face the Cayman Islands in March 2008. - On Wednesday January 16th, the first of the two game friendly between Puerto Rico and Bermuda got underway. - Puerto Rico kicked the game off going against a strong wind and handed Bermuda a lesson in possession football. - Puerto Rico's Eloy Matos made the first attempt of the game when he headed over from a corner five minutes into the game. In the 11th minute, Puerto Rican defender Taylor Graham had a header saved by the Bermuda goalkeeper Jason Williams. In injury time, Williams denied Noah Delgado a goal from close range. Puerto Rico outshot Bemuda 6-5 in the scoreless first half. - Puerto Rico adapted better to the weather conditions, especially the wind, which was behind them on the 2nd half. While Bermuda virtually camped inside their half, where their full-backs kept playing short passes into the midfield without being able to get out of their half. - Two minutes into the second half Taylor Graham steamed in unattended to head home a corner, and put Puerto Rico in the lead when he out jumped the Bermuda defense. It was the first goal for Puerto Rico since they last played on November 28, 2004, when they lost 5-2 to Grenada in the Continental Qualifiers, at Tunapuna, Trinidad & Tobago. - Bermuda lacked teeth in attack and after they conceded Graham's header, victory was written on the wall for Puerto Rico! - On the 67th minute Puerto Rico’s Andres Cabrero (who replaced Noah Delgado in the 2nd half) beat the Bermuda goalkeeper with a left footed shot from 25 yards out, to put the last nail on Bermuda's coffin. - Late in the 2nd half Puerto Rico won the ball and Cabrero again unleashed a left footed shot that almost flew in past the Bermuda goalkeeper, who dived to his right to deny Cabrero a second goal. - Other than an opportunist snap-shot from Nahki Wells and a guilt-edge chance by Aljame Zuill, Bermuda rarely troubled Puerto Rico's defense who kept Zuill (a hat-trick hero last month against St. Kitts) safely under lock and key. Aljame Zuill was looking to extend his remarkable goal streak. He had scored 9 goals in his last 4 games at club and national level. - As the referee blowed the final whistle, Puerto Rico had won 2-0 the first of a two game World Cup Warm Up series; their first win since 1994. - Puerto Rico outshot Bermuda 13-7. Petter Villegas led the team with 3 shots. Noah Delgado, Taylor Graham (1 goal), Kupano Low, and Andres Cabrero (1 goal) each had 2 shots. Gadiel Figueroa and Eloy Matos had 1 shot each. - The Puertorican goalkeeper Josh Saunders faced 7 shots and made 4 saves. - On Wednesday January 16, 2008 Puerto Rico was well, and truly enjoyed their return to the international football arena! - It was the first win for the Puerto Rico National team in about 13 years (the last win was Nov 23, 1994; Puerto Rico 1:0 Barbados; Friendly; Bridgetown, Barbados). - Their second win would not have to wait that long... - On Friday January 18th, the second of the two game friendly between Bermuda and Puerto Rico got underway with much less wind than the previous game. - In the 13th minute Puerto Rico drew first blood when Noah Delgado scored the first goal of the game. Puerto Rico won the ball on the edge of the Bermuda box and Delgado let it loose with a right footed shot to beat Bemuda's goalkeeper Jason Williams to his right. Puerto Rico led 1-0 at halftime. - At the start of the 2nd half Delgado came close to doubling the lead when he had a shot blocked from just inside the box. In the 68th minute Delgado shot wide from a breakaway, the ball was bounced around and Delgado was set free with a clear run at goal, but his shot went wide right. - On the 78th minute Bermuda's Damon Ming was sent off for his second yellow card, and Puerto Rico played the rest of the game with a one man advantage. - Peter Villegas had a goal denied in the 83rd minute with a fingertip save by the Bermuda goalie. - And as the referee blowed the final whistle, Puerto Rico for the 2nd time in two nights, had won and shutout Bermuda (this time 1-0) in the World Cup Warm Up series! - In the 2nd game Puerto Rico outshot Bermuda 12-11. Noah Delgado led the team with 3 shots and the game's only goal. Petter Villegas, Gadiel Figueroa and Eloy Matos each had 2 shots; while Taylor Graham had 1 shot. Josh Saunders was also credited with two offensive shots. - The Puertorican goalkeeper Josh Saunders faced 11 shots and made 4 saves. - Colin 'General' Clarke is now 2-0-0 as the head coach of the Puerto Rico National team. - Clarke admited he was delighted with his young team's showing at the National Sports Centre in an interview with a local newspaper. - "We were pretty pleased as we've only been together for about ten days or so. The trip has been a step into the unknown for us, as we didn't know how we were going to perform and we didn't know much about Bermuda." said the 'General'. - Regarding the first game Clarke commented: "They (Bermuda) had their chance in the first-half and if it goes in who knows what would have happened? The second-half saw us (Puerto Rico) dominant and we had the wind to assist us. We knew we had done the hard part at half-time. We played some good combinations and finished off with two great goals. We dominated the midfield and if the ball was there to be won we went out and won it. It was a good positive result and we will look to build on that." - 'General' Clarke and his gang proved in Bermuda that Puerto Rico can certainly play football! - Puerto Rico Football Association president Joe Serralta was all smiles after watching his team complete their first visit to Bermuda's shores undefeated. - After the 2nd win Serralta told a local newspaper: "We knew Bermuda were going to be very aggressive tonight and press us, and so the only way we were going to win was to counter attack. As you saw we didn't touch the ball too much; today we played on the counter attack. But I thought the boys played well while the coach (Colin Clarke) really did his job well. It's been a very successful tour for us." - Puerto Rico will next play Trinidad & Tobago in another warm up friendly in 'Borinquen' on January 26th, before hosting the World Cup qualifier game against the Dominican Republic on March 26, 2008. - In other news... In Bermuda's The Royal Gazette published today the following headlines: - "Puerto Rican pocket rocket David Freeman reigned supreme in the KPMG Invitational Front Street Mile on the same night his compatriots once again swept aside Bermuda's football team." - Cheered on by thousands of spectators who braved the windy weather, Freeman nudged ahead of Jon Rankin and defending champion Neil Speaight to win the mile in a thrilling sprint finish. - Like a silent assassin the diminutive runner purposefully hung at the rear of the small seven-man pack for much of the mile, biding his time before exploding when the finishing line came within his sights. - "My strategy was to stay at the back and let the other guys do the work," said Freeman who finished third last year. - "I kicked into overdrive when I saw the finishing line and it worked out for me. "When you see the line you seem to get an extra boost of energy, it was a close race. I read in the newspaper that the Puerto Rican football team were on the Island so it's been a good week for us, I guess." - It was indeed a great week for Puerto Rico in Bermuda!