The Puerto Rico Islanders return to the Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium for the last two games of the season, the next one this Saturday, September 15th against the Minnesota Stars FC at 7:30 p.m. With all playoff spots secured, the Islanders are currently in third place in NASL standings with 37 points. Nevertheless, the next two games will be important, as their results will decide the final seeding for playoffs.
It is déjà vu for the Puerto Rico Islanders as they take on the Minnesota Stars following Tuesday’s tough 4-0 loss at the hands of the Stars. Nate Polak, Miguel Ibarra, Jamie Watson and Amani Walker gave the home side a convincing victory, as they secured the sixth and final play-off spot in the NASL regular season.
Ahead of the game, Coach Adrian Whitbread spoke to the Club’s official website and explained why it is important to look forward, not backward.
“I think it is important now to get the mental aspect of the team right. We were very disappointed on Tuesday night. We had a long day traveling back yesterday to dwell on the game, but that one has gone now.” Whitbread explained.
“We have got two home games to finish up our NASL season to see where we get seeded for the playoffs and two fantastic CONCACAF Champions League games to look forward to over the next two weeks.”
With a number of the Islanders' squad also returning from international duty after some impressive results, Whitbread stressed how pleased he was to see his squad performing so well for their respective countries.
“It is fantastic because then, obviously, they reap the rewards of playing for their national team. I am sure the Puerto Rican national team is on a high after qualifying for the next stage of the Caribbean Gold Cup Championships, and that can hopefully breed confidence into my team.”
And ahead of next week's CONCACAF Champions League tie against the LA Galaxy, Coach Whitbread confirmed the arrival of some soccer greats, with the Coach also keen to deliver a special message to the Islanders fans.
“Come along. It is a fantastic occasion. We had a fantastic night here 2 years ago,” He said.
“I know this time David Beckham is coming because last time he was injured. Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, these are superstars of the world of football. It is not often, like with the Spain game, that you get to see these superstars up close and personal.”
He went on to say: “It will be a fantastic night especially when the Puerto Rico Islanders' fans come through the gates and sit in the stands and we start hearing their noise and the way that they back us.”
The season so far.
It has been a difficult season for defending NASL champions, the Minnesota Stars. Currently in the same position they finished last campaign in, the Stars will be hoping for a repeat playoff performance in a few weeks time should they secure qualification. Away from home, ties are the most often occurrence for the Stars having recorded six alongside two wins and four defeats.
Tuesday’s victory saw the Islanders relegated to the league’s lowest scorers on twenty nine goals. Despite the defeat, they still remain third tightest back line having conceded an equally low twenty nine goals, giving an overall goal difference of zero. Although both sides have qualified for the playoffs, there is still a great deal at stake, with seeding for the games still to be decided.
Minnesota forward Jamie Watson was the stand out player on Tuesday as the Stars ran out convincing winners. The 26 year old has MLS experience with Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas, having joined the Stars from Orlando City on a short term loan deal.
If the Islanders are to avenge Tuesday's result, they will most likely need to stop Watson, who recorded thirteen goals in forty games for Orlando last season.