The Puerto Rico Islanders are set to kick off their 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League campaign Wednesday night with a trip to El Salvador to face Salvadoran Apertura 2011 Champions, Isidro Metapán. The match comes just four days after the Islanders defeated Minnesota Stars FC by a score of 1-0 at the Bayamón Soccer Complex in North American Soccer League action. The game can be seen live at 10:00 p.m. EST on CONCACAF.TV.
"We are excited!! Obviously there is a lot of emotion playing in such a prestigious tournament like the CONCACAF Champions League. The players are very excited and I very proud to lead the football club as a new Head Coach," said Manager Adrian Whitbread.
The Islanders are the sole representative from the North American Soccer League in the CONCACAF Champions League, having qualified by finishing third in the 2012 CFU Club Championship. The competition features the best clubs from North America, Central America and the Caribbean,and the Islanders' group is no exception. In addition to Isidro Metapán, the Islanders have been drawn into a group that features the star-studded 2011 MLS Cup Champions, LA Galaxy.
Since its inception in 2008-09, the Puerto Rico Islanders are one of just three teams to have qualified for every edition of the CONCACAF Champions League. Like the Islanders, Honduran powerhouse Olimpia has made the tournament five times, as has none other than the Islanders’ first match opponents, Isidro Metapán.
In the last edition, the teams were drawn against each other for a home and away series in the first stage of the competition. Isidro Metapán got the better of Islanders in the first leg at home, winning by two goals to nil. Things went from bad to worse for the Islanders in the second leg when Los Caleros went up 1-0 in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. The Islanders ended up winning the match 3-1, leveling the aggregate score at 3-3, but the away goal scored by Isidro Metapán was enough to send the Salvadoran side through to the group stage.
The Islanders see the match as a chance for redemption against the side that defeated them in the Preliminary Round of last season’s edition. It was just the first time in history that the Puerto Rican side failed to advance past the first stage of the competition, having beaten teams like LA Galaxy, Toronto FC and LD Alajuelense in previous Preliminary Rounds.