|Souleymane Youla in action against Liga MX champions CF Pachuca|
By: James Cormack
Hip Hip! Okay I couldn't resist a nice Weezer reference, if you have no idea what I am talking about you are missing out on a great song.
As with any new franchise in NASL you need some hype and some promotion to get butts on seats for your first season. Puerto Rico have been leading with the catchphrase "We Are Ready!". Are they really ready though?
PRFC stole the headlines in June of 2015 when it was announced NBA star and Puerto Rican native Carmelo Anthony has bought a franchise in the NASL that will play in the summer of 2016 at Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium in Bayamón, Puerto Rico.
So while the rest of the NASL have been concentrating on Spring action, what have PRFC been up to? Puerto Rico's roster currently stands at 21 with three goalkeepers. probably the most recognizable name to Indy Eleven fans would be former striker Pedro Mendes who departed the club in 2014 for Minnesota and then moved back to his former club Atlanta Silverbacks in 2015. Joining him in Puerto Rico is his twin brother and former Cosmos and Atlanta player Paulo.
The rest of the Puerto Rican roster provides a smattering of NASL and local experience, but nothing jaw dropping or eyebrow raising as we have seen with other new teams like Rayo OKC or Miami FC, there has been no huge spending nor is there anyone who could be described as a 'marquee' player.
Chris Nurse may be considered somewhat talismanic locally, he played for the original Puerto Rico Islanders in 2010 and in 2012, he returns to Puerto Rico for the third time. In between he has featured for Carolina Railhawks, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and FC Edmonton. The 32 year old midfielder from Hammersmith, London will no doubt be looked upon for experience and leadership in the fall.
In terms of NASL league experience through the rest of the roster Brazilian attacker Oliver Minatel arrrives from Ottawa Fury FC where he made 44 appearances. Fellow Brazilian 'Cristiano' Dias boasts four to five years experience with Minnesota United where he made 98 appearances for the Loons and the defender will don the captain's armband for PRFC.
Outside of that and adding a few Puerto Rican player and some internationals like Ramón Soria (Spain) and Bljedi Bardic (Montenegro). I'll be perfectly honest this roster does not in anyway give me the feeling we are looking at a squad that is going to cause any great upset in fall.
The pre season and preparations for Puerto Rico are equally obscure. As far as I can tell from club news the team has played against the Puerto Rico national team in which they won 1-0 in New York, played against Costa Rica in their preparation for Copa America (all I can tell is the game ended after 75 minutes due to a thunderstorm), and a game against US U17's (no details found, apparently USA's warmup against Puerto Rico is not the same game?).
So are Puerto Rico ready to meet the only undefeated team in the NASL and current Spring Champions Indy Eleven, I hope I am not proven wrong, but no, I don't really think they will be. Even in 2014 when Indy entered the league for the first time their preparation, even if lacking then was better than that. The most important thing for PRFC is to get started and gain experience in 2016. It is going to be tough for them, Indy Eleven found out the hard way in 2014 that this league is not to be underestimated.
Indy Eleven not letting off the gas any time soon......
|Franco covering Omar Gonzalez of CF Pachuca|
The squad got a break and then resumed action again on June 26th they played in exhibition against reigning Liga MX Champions CF Pachuca and thanks to a great goal from Éamon Zayed defeated them 1-0 at Carroll Stadium.
Indy will look to push on and continue where they left off but there will be a few players unavailable for the match in Puerto Rico so we will look to use our roster depth again.
Gerardo Torrado is not yet eligible for this game, he will not be able to play in competitive NASL matches until after the transfer window closes on Monday. He will be available for our next home match.
Gorka Larrea will no longer be playing for Indy, anyone who follows his instagram would know he appears to be a long way away right now, Indy Eleven picked Gorka up for Spring and it looks like his option will not be picked up for fall, so it's bon voyage to Gorky.
The benefit of winning Spring and already having a playoff berth means we have time to let injured players heal, this will be the case for Colin Falvey this week, he played through pain in Spring with a groin issue and now that is being allowed to heal, return time not yet know.
Don Smart and Jair Reinoso are still not 100% or ready for a return yet. Indy will leave nobody else behind and have just enough to make the 18 man roster for the match.
The biggest question for me is will Marco Franco keep his place, in the last three matches he has been outstanding, he had a great performance against Pachuca, Chicago and Carolina. Lovel Palmer is back and ready, but do we need to change for right now, we made the playoffs and we have opportunities to rotate players.
I'd like to see both play to be honest, but I think Franco has earned a start for this game and Lovel is a very adaptable player who can play defense and midfield so with a player like Larrea departing he will still be very important.
Also does Cardona who also had a standout performance against Pachuca get more time against an unknown team? Will be interesting to see if he starts, I would be comfortable with it but also love to see Jon Busch in goal as well.
Possible starting lineup: Busch, Franco, Miller, Janicki, Vukovic, Mares, Ring, Paterson, Gordon, Zayed, Braun. Subs: Cardona, Palmer, Shaffer, Keller, Lacroix, Youla, Ubiparipovic
Players to watch:
Éamon Zayed, sitting atop the scoring table in NASL after a hat trick against Carolina and pulling out another one against CF Pachuca, he's a man on a mission, he told us we'd win Spring and we did, he told us he would win the Golden Boot and we believe him. This could be the perfect game for him to bump up his tally.
Souleymane Youla, whether he starts or comes on later in the game he is the new guy and he looks sharp, he will be eager to carve himself a regular starting spot but will have to earn it in this roster, a standout performance won't do any harm, expect him to give 110% and possibly score.
As always Bloody Shambles and Permanent Relegation are supporting Playworks Indiana children's charity with our #EamonZayedRule initiative. We are donating money for every goal Éamon Zayed scores this year and you can choose to play along or just make a one off donation to help us reach our target of $2000. Click Here for More Information.
Watch out for a new blog with some exciting news coming soon, we have some upcoming events to tell you about including Permanent Relegation's annual Euchre tournament the Game of Kings, which will help raise more money. If you are interested SIGN UP HERE.
At the moment we are almost at 25% of our goal of $2000, please consider helping us get a little further!