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Leagues: MLS

Islanders Advance

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USL-1 has placed a team in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, just a day after the last MLS representative the Houston Dynamo were embarrassed in Cancun at the hands of Atlante. Yesterday we discussed tactics on this site: specifically how Colin Clarke, the second leading goal scorer in Northern Ireland National Team history manages his Islanders on the road.

That the Islanders did this without arguably their two most skilled players: Peter Villegas and Jonathan Steele also refutes the argument that somehow MLS clubs have gotten unlucky in the tournament because of injuries.

Once again on Wednesday night, the Islanders managed a late counter attacking goal, this time a critical away goal to ensure passage to the semifinals. Clarke’s men played a perfect tactical game. They packed the back, forcing Marathon to take a number of long range shots from outside the area or just inside the 18”. Bill Gaudette as usual was stellar in goal making a number of key saves but also milking critical time off the clock by over dramatizing the difficulty of certain saves and lying on the ground.

As we mentioned yesterday at times the Islanders have been unsporting in this tournament. But when you are an underdog playing in a hostile atmosphere, sometime being unsporting is smart football. Gaudette exploited the clock beginning early in the first half and effectively shortened the game.

The Islanders also used the counter effectively to force Marathon to keep one or two defenders back until very late in the match. With quick attacking players like Nicholas Addlery and Kendall Jagdeosingh giving the slower less athletic Honduran defenders fits, the Islanders were able to keep their shape at the back and not crack.

Marathon’s fans and coaches in typical Central American style exhibited a bitterness and anger that fueled what appeared to be a mini riot towards the end of the match. Let’s hope Clarke’s men got out of San Pedro Sula without any incidents.

I hope the victory by the Islanders leads Puerto Ricans to embrace Football even if just for a short while the way they embrace Baseball. Additionally, this should be a shout out to those in USL markets to buy tickets to support your local team. (South Florida this means you!). MLS may be the FIFA sanctioned first division in the US/Canada, but thanks to the salary cap and squad restrictions, USL is far superior to your average second division, when compared its nation’s first division.

We’ve already spent a great deal of time discussing why USL has been more successful than MLS in this tournament. While Don Garber is sure to be lamenting this result while Francisco Marcos celebrates it, lets remember that MLS and USL are both our leagues in the US & Canada and the Islanders victory is an win for the North American game.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. The Battery

    March 6, 2009 at 8:47 am

    Great article.

    I’m all for Puerto Rico. Know some of the players and have a fondness for the club. I’ve seen them in person a number of times the last four years.

    I think they have a shot against Cruz Azul. Keep it tight at the back and hit the Mexicans on the counter. Get maybe two goals in Bayoman and then bunker down and defend in Mexico.

    Colin Clarke will not make the mistake the Impact did yesterday taking two strikers off and leaving tired defenders on to just clear the ball.

  2. Joey Clams

    March 6, 2009 at 1:28 am

    I’m totally with the Islanders. Big time.

    I enjoy seeing the game go from nothing to something. That’s why I support Ireland and Colombia, two places where the game had been a little underdeveloped.

    Wouldn’t it be funny if PR made it into MLS before Miami? If USL continues to shrink, they’ll have to do something.

  3. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    March 6, 2009 at 1:23 am

    Honestly, I can relate to Savannah. I’ve seen the Islanders play in the person three times in the last three seasons because I am in a USL city. The only MLS games I saw in person were Colorado vs DC United when I was on business in Denver and the stadium opened and the MLS All Star game in 2006 vs Chelsea which I made a special trip to Chicago to see.

    I’ve gone to four national team games in that period. With a fairly limited budget, a choice between saving to see the US Nat’l Team or seeing an MLS game isn’t a choice. I’d pick the US 99.9% of the time.

    So yeah maybe I too have been pulling for the Islanders more than the MLS teams, because I actually have seen them in person many times.

  4. Joey Clams

    March 6, 2009 at 1:11 am

    Savannah:

    MLS is foreign to you, not only because an owner hasn’t put an ideal package together, but also because Garber and his pals are more committed to satisfying the core that wishes MLS to be a cosmopolitan statement than they are with expanding the American footprint.

    Hostility towards the South and parts of the Midwest is a fact of American soccer life.

    That’s why MLS now disgusts me.

  5. Intru

    March 5, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Sorry for your lost Silverback Fans, the backs was a team that for some reason always had our number (Islanders), so I love to watch both teams play each other.

  6. Savannah Silverbacks Fan

    March 5, 2009 at 5:22 am

    I’m sorry but for some of us USL is OUR league, not MLS. My Silverbacks are gone, but I support a league that has placed teams throughout the continent and us not merely interested in the almighty dollar. I support a league that is structured like the rest of the soccer world. I support a league who now has a team in Puerto Rico that has gotten further in the ONLY COMPETITION WHERE LEAGUES OF THE REGION CAN BE ACCURATELY JUDGED, than any MLS team.

    I support USL. While I want MLS to succeed understand that for many of us in the South, MLS is as a foreign as the EPL. It’s as easy to watch and EPL or La Liga match or even FMF as it is to watch MLS. I live nowhere near an MLS city and with Miami’s withdrawal the other day that will continue for another few years at the least.

    With MLS almost a foreign league to me, why would I watch it instead of clearly superior products also on TV?

    MLS fans who look down on USL need to understand why some of us cling to our league because it is the only soccer we have.

  7. Matt B

    March 5, 2009 at 12:45 am

    Colin Clarke went to coach Puerto Rico’s national team and USL team. Thats how it made more sense for him.

  8. Pieter Brown

    March 5, 2009 at 12:29 am

    That’s exactly what the owners are doing, going around FM. That is why they formed the Owner’s Association. All the USL owners finally getting together to make the league to do what they want and think is best for the league.

  9. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    March 5, 2009 at 12:17 am

    Hollywood- how did you get the game for $5.95? I paid $12.95 for it and a royally pissed about it! They made me sign up for a monthly pass on ACC Select.

    J is right also. I’m told a number of owners aren’t thrilled with Marcos. He founded the league at a time when we didn’t even have semi-professional leagues here so US Soccer owes him a ton: American players not on contract to the USSF really stayed sharp in the 1990 to 1994 period playing in Marcos various leagues, the Southwest Pro League, and then the USISL. These leagues of course eventually became the A-League and now USL-1.

    But USL now has a huge opportunity. MLS has abandoned the southeast and based on UMBRO’s purchase by Nike, the swoosh now has ownership in the league. Puerto Rico has made it further than any MLS team in CONCACAF despite playing a more congested calender and having to travel more: an accomplishment that cannot be minimized even by MLS yes men who are on other websites today bitterly discussing PR’s “easy draw” and “luck in games.”

    But Marcos has never been a good PR man. Perhaps its time for the Saputos and other owners to retire him or just work around him.

  10. J

    March 4, 2009 at 11:51 pm

    Your right. Francisco Marcos should be happy, but not all FM do is right for the league. His “flagship team” the Whitecaps are not even in the CCL. While USL 2008’s “2nd and 3rd” place are still alive and giving every one around the world something to talk about.

    Lets hope U$L start changing some policies and treat EVERY franchise as equals, regardle$$ of who are the owner$$$ and where is located.

  11. Hollywood (FL) Fan

    March 4, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    That was a heck of a game.

    After wasting $5,95 to watch Miami Basketball pay per view, it was a nice relief.

    My team is now headed to the NIT.

    Question about Colin Clarke. Didn’t Dallas do very well with him? What about him in particular made him willing to go to USL when most fired MLS coaches sit around for another MLS job?

    I actually thought he was a top tier coach in MLS and while obviously no could predict the Islanders run in CONCACAF I am not shocked at how well he’s done.

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