Featured Matches
Previous
Germany
Argentina
ESPNDeportes 6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Czech Republic
United States
6:15 PM GMT
Game Details
England
Norway
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Philadelphia Union
Toronto FC
11:00 PM GMT
Game Details
New England Revolution
Sporting Kansas City
11:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Chivas USA
Seattle Sounders FC
2:30 AM GMT
Game Details
Russia
Azerbaijan
3:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Lithuania
United Arab Emirates
4:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Latvia
Armenia
5:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Denmark
Turkey
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Czech Republic
United States
6:15 PM GMT
Game Details
Republic of Ireland
Oman
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Germany
Argentina
ESPNDeportes 6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
England
Norway
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Morocco
Qatar
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Somozas
CD Varea
4:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Leioa
Sestao
5:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Izarra
Atlético Granadilla
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Puertollano
Teruel
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Barakaldo
Trival Valderas
6:15 PM GMT
Game Details
Alcoyano
Pena Deportiva
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Cornella
Real Jaen CF
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Gimnastic de Tarragona
Atlético Baleares
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Gimnástica Torrelavega
Lealtad
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Huesca
Toledo
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Racing Ferrol
Atletico Astorga
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Real Aviles Industrial
Marino de Luanco
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Real Oviedo
Amorebieta
6:30 PM GMT
Game Details
FC Cartagena
UCAM Murcia
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Hercules
Eldense
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
La Hoya Lorca
Villanovense
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
San Roque de Lepe
Cádiz
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
UD Marbella
Linense
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Philadelphia Union
Toronto FC
11:00 PM GMT
Game Details
New England Revolution
Sporting Kansas City
11:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Chivas USA
Seattle Sounders FC
2:30 AM GMT
Game Details
Gimnasia La Plata
Estudiantes La Plata
5:00 PM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
Godoy Cruz de Mendoza
River Plate
12:15 AM GMT
Leg 1
Game Details
EC Vitória
Sport
1:00 AM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 1 - 0
Game Details
Goiás EC
Fluminense FC
1:00 AM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 0 - 0
Game Details
Crucero del Norte
All Boys
7:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Ferro Carril Oeste
Gimnasia y Esgrima de Jujuy
9:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Argentinos Juniors
Aldosivi
9:15 PM GMT
Game Details
Douglas Haig
Instituto de Córdoba
10:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Santamarina
Independiente Rivadavia
11:30 PM GMT
Game Details
Colón de Santa Fe
Guarini A. Franco
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Patronato
Sarmiento de Junín
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
San Martín de San Juan
Nueva Chicago
12:30 AM GMT
Game Details
Atletico Paranaense
América RN
10:30 PM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 0 - 3
Game Details
Santa Rita
Cruzeiro
10:30 PM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 0 - 5
Game Details
Ceará
Botafogo
1:00 AM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 2 - 1
Game Details
Corinthians
Bragantino
1:00 AM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 0 - 1
Game Details
Flamengo
Coritiba FBC
1:00 AM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 0 - 3
Game Details
Santos FC
Gremio
Postp
Leg 2Aggregate: 2 - 0
Game Details
Aguilas Doradas
Independiente Santa Fe
11:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Atlético Junior
Atlético Huila
1:00 AM GMT
Game Details
León de Huánuco
UTC
9:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Limon
Santos
9:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Carmelita
Perez Zeledon
1:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Cartagines
Universidad De Costa Rica
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Pumas Generalena
Club Sport Uruguay
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Next

Roden: Del Bosque's youth infusion

Spain less than a minute ago
Read

Top 5: First XI costs in Premier League

Transfers 1 day ago
Read

West Ham fan's fundraiser

The Toe Poke 12 hours ago
Read
Oct 1, 2008

Islanders emerge as a powerhouse

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- He is not the first "General" to direct battles on multiple fronts, but Colin Clarke certainly knows how to get the most out of his men. His team, the Puerto Rico Islanders, have been the surprise of the CONCACAF Champions League, eliminating former CONCACAF champions Liga Deportiva Alajuelense of Costa Rica before downing Tauro (Panama) and Santos Laguna, champions of Mexico, in the group phase of the competition.

The no-nonsense coach of the Puerto Rico Islanders is a former Northern Ireland international nicknamed "The General" by the local press. Clarke now faces the USL postseason riding a 17-match unbeaten streak, and will seek to keep his troops focused as they try to clinch the club's first USL championship and secure their ticket to the next round of the CONCACAF Champions League.

The Islanders face Municipal of Guatemala on Wednesday, the USL semifinals Oct. 3 and Oct. 5 and then the return match against Santos on Oct. 8.

Implementing a rotation system -- which many top European teams must adopt to face several top-notch competitions -- Clarke has made the most of his squad and fashioned the Islanders in his image: a tough, direct team that fights for every ball.

"He's tough, but at the same time he's the fairest coach I have had," said Noah Delgado, a Californian who has made Puerto Rico his home. "He and assistant coach Adrian [Whitbread] don't let you get away with anything, on and off the field."

"He really has a way of getting the most out of everybody," says Alexis Rivera, one of the native Puerto Ricans on the team. "He has a way of motivating you. Sometimes you don't think he cares, and he'll say something that lets you know that even though you're not playing you're important to the success of he team."

The real clarion call to the rest of the soccer giants of North America was the convincing 3-1 win over highly regarded Mexican team Santos in Bayamon on Sept. 23.

"When we travel, people say, 'Who are those guys in the orange shirts? They can play,'" said Islanders president Andres Guillemard. "We started late in Puerto Rico, but when we beat them we show those that thought we only played baseball in PR that we are to be reckoned with."

"The players believe in themselves, they believe in each other," Clarke said. "We've been through a couple of hard games in Costa Rica and against Santos. … The boys have responded."

Although the Islanders are a team without stars, Clarke depends on players looking for redemption or a breakthrough and willing to fill roles: the scoring and playmaking of foreigners Christian Arrieta (Spain/Italy) and Kendall Jagdeosingh (Trinidad), along with Taiwo Atieno (England), Edwin Miranda (El Salvador) and Fabrice Noel (Haiti).

Clarke also harnessed the talent of "bad boy" midfielder and fellow Northern Ireland native Jonathan Steele. If before Clarke took over there were rifts between native Boricuas and mainland players, Clarke nurtures players that never quit -- the Islanders eliminated Alajuelense in the final minute of the return match -- and rarely complain. The Islanders' leading scorer is Arrieta, a defender, and they have no players among the 10 leading USL scorers.

Clarke and Whitbread typically put the team through an intense morning workout that stresses pressing and defending as a block. "I ask for 100 percent, nothing more," said Clarke, a former striker for English teams such as Southampton, Portsmouth and QPR who once scored against Spain in the 1986 World Cup.

Second Division, but first class

The CONCACAF Champions League has produced a marked contrast in the results of USL teams and MLS teams. New England Revolution and Chivas USA of the MLS were knocked out in the preliminary rounds by Joe Public of Trinidad and Tauro of Panama, and neither D.C. United nor Houston Dynamo have yet to get a victory. In contrast, the USL's Montreal Impact and the Islanders made it to the group stages and have yet to lose.

"People seem surprised we're getting results, but we're a good team. We're closer to MLS standard than we used to be," Clarke said. "We're preparing for the games well. Montreal is a good team, and we're a good team."

Clarke added that the team's depth and motivation are an edge over MLS squads, with "a lot of players here that have been in the MLS and decided not to accept developmental contracts. We don't have a squad of 11 or 13 players; we have a squad of 22 who are all capable of starting in our league. I don't think the standard of soccer has improved in MLS over the last two years or so. A lot of good players have left and they haven't replaced them."

Caribbean pride

The Islanders' matches in Bayamon have been a sensation, and the team has used its home advantage. The hot and wet weather in Puerto Rico -- home of the only tropical rain forest on U.S. territory -- is an advantage. The field is always spongy from the daily rains, but the Islanders hold their intense practices there anyway.

"They love their sports and they love Puerto Rico. They are passionate about anything in life," Clarke said.

The rise in fortunes of Puerto Rico's national team -- which notched its first victory in World Cup qualifiers ever and then tied Honduras at home as it climbed over 60 spots in the FIFA rankings -- has given an extra impulse. Clarke is coaching both the national team and the Islanders, who play in Bayamon's Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium.

Marco Velez is the only Puerto Rican native playing regularly in the MLS, and signed with Toronto before the season started.

Some also believe the Islanders, a team in existence for five years, could be a giant-slayer that represents the whole of Caribbean soccer. "I think the whole region can get behind this team when we play the Mexicans and mainland teams," Jagdeosingh said.

"Our fans are phenomenal. Great atmosphere. They get behind us, and that helps," Clarke adds. Append the soccer chapters to the Puerto Rico-Mexico rivalry developed in boxing, and the Boricuas who are not soccer cognoscenti can relate to the Islanders' upcoming battles.

Puerto Ricans are learning quickly about soccer, but before he landed in San Juan last year Clarke was somewhat ignorant about the Islanders and the island, a U.S. commonwealth known internationally for its beaches, rum, salsa, baseball and boxing. It is much more, and its citizens take great pride in a tradition of serving as U.S. soldiers since before World War II.

"I knew it was in the Caribbean. I knew it was an island. I didn't know how big it was'" Clarke said. "I knew they had a soccer team. It was a team with a lot of talent, but not disciplined enough to get results on a regular basis. I've been pleasantly surprised. It's a great place to live."

When friends call from Ireland, another lush island, Clarke says, "I just tell them it's 84 degrees and sunny and beautiful every day. It's not a small Caribbean island. It's a very cosmopolitan city that could be anywhere in the world."

Keyvan Heydari is a print and TV journalist who covers the USL for ESPNsoccernet.

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.