In what is hopefully the first of a number of important post-season games for the Puerto Rico Islanders, the club gear up to face recent opponents the Minnesota Stars in the NASL playoffs on Sunday.
The Islanders go into the game off the back of a fantastic result against Isidro Metapán in midweek, running out comfortable 3-0 winners, thanks to goals from Hector Ramos (2) and Gregory Richardson.
That performance has left Coach Adrian Whitbread with a number of selection decisions to make ahead of the game.
He took time out to speak to the club’s official website before the game, to discuss training as well as provide a rallying call to the Islanders’ fans ahead of Sunday’s clash.
“I’ve sent some stuff out on my Facebook page. Football in this country, there is a long off season and these players deserve to have this stadium full come Sunday,” Whitbread explained.
“So if every person that is a supporter that was here tonight and saw the effort that the players put in, then they should be very proud of their players and their team,” He added. “These players are not only playing for the Islanders but for the country of Puerto Rico.”
“The players who did not participate last night will train today and then we’ll look to put the game plan,which has already been in process since we knew who we were going to play- into action.”
Season So Far
The Islanders finished the NASL regular season in third spot on forty one points- only six behind league leaders the San Antonio Scorpions. By contrast their opponents on Sunday secured the final play-off spot by finishing in sixth position, mirroring their position from last season, in which they qualified for the post-season in a similar sixth place.
Away from home
The Minnesota Stars lead the league in ties having collected seven draws on their travels this season. However their visits to the Juan Ramón Loubriel stadium this season have seen them yield two losses and concede three goals in the process.
Last Time Out
The Islanders will face the Minnesota Stars for the third time this month, with their last meeting resulting in a 2-0 win for the Islanders. The victory went someway to exacting revenge on the Stars who had smashed four past the Tropa Naranja just days previously in a convincing 4-0 win.
David Foley and Anthony Vázquez were the scorers that night, and it’s likely that coach Adrian Whitbread would be more than happy with a repeat performance from the pair- particularly Foley who has been in great form this month.
The Islanders should also take confidence from the fact they came out on top during the 2011 series between the two sides, collecting seven points from a possible twelve against the Stars. This season has also seen some impressive home form from the club, having lost just two games at the Juan Ramón Loubriel stadium in the regular season.
While Sunday’s game is likely to be a passionate affair, it seems it will also be a fair one. The Minnesota Stars currently have the third lowest card count in the league on forty four yellow and two red cards. The Stars are behind only the Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Carolina RailHawks in the fair-play table.
By contrast the Puerto Rico Islanders find themselves in the bottom three of the fair-play league above the Atlanta Silverbacks and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers with this season seeing the Islanders collect fifty nine yellow and three red cards.
For the Islanders, Jamaican forward Nicholas Addlery will be a vital component of the attacking lineup, providing a physical threat to the Stars defence. Addlery has nine goals this season, and finds himself in the top 5 scorers list for the NASL in 2012.
Meanwhile at the back, goalkeeper Richard Martin will be keen to add another clean sheet to his season- having already found himself in the top 3 for saves made. The former Brighton and Manchester City goalkeeper was also named NASL player of the month for August, and will play a huge part in keeping the Islander’s backline solid against the Stars.
For the visitors, Addlery’s compatriot Amani Walker will no doubt provide a huge attacking threat. Having already scored against the Islanders once this month, he finds himself on seven goals and five assists for the season, with the Jamaican youth international,much like Addlery, providing a strong physical presence up top for his team.
It’s likely that Walker will look to link up with defender Brian Kallman, who is the Stars second highest assist provider this season. Kallman is a native of Minnesota and joined the Stars from the Minnesota Thunder after the team disbanded in 2009.