Islanders claim improbable USSF D-2 title

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Photo by ISIphotos.com

In the end, the 2-0 first leg lead proved to be plenty for the Puerto Rico Islanders, the 2010 champions of the USSF Second Division. The Carolina Railhawks didn't have enough to overturn the deficit, only mustering a 1-1 tie in Cary, NC.

It only took eight minutes for Puerto Rico to pad their lead in Saturday's second leg, as Sandy Gbandi scored to increase the Islanders lead and essentially clinch the two-legged series. Carolina showed signs of life by answering quickly with a Tom Heinemann goal just two minutes later, and certainly had time to mount a comeback.

But Heinemann's tally would be all the Railhawks could manage against Bill Gaudette and the Islanders defense, as they were blanked for the rest of the game despite outshooting the visitors 18-10. Puerto Rico even had a penalty saved in the game's closing minutes before celebration ensued with the final whistle, as they won 3-1 on aggregate.

What did you think of the D2 playoffs? Surprised to see Puerto Rico win it all? What do you think will happen to the second division league?

Share your thoughts below.

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24 Responses to Islanders claim improbable USSF D-2 title

  1. C-Note says:

    Enjoyed the D2 playoffs all the way through. Thanks for keeping up with it Ives. I am however crushed by the Aztex’s move to Orlando.

  2. JP says:

    Off topic. Comebol has officially invited MLS teams to play in 2012 libertadores…

  3. Vik says:

    Wait, so what exactly are the separate interests of the two D2 divisions that currently prevents them from wanting to combine?

  4. Hood Rich says:

    Why would anyone be surprised at PR Islanders winning the D2 title? Have people here have been living under a rock the past few years? i.e., CONCACAF Champions League etc.

    They’ve beaten teams like Alajulense, Santos Laguna, Cruz Azul, Marathon … Watching USL/D2 after these matches seem pretty Micky Mouse to me.

  5. huricano says:

    Wepa PR! Congratulations! Lets hope it moves soccer on the island forward!

  6. huricano says:

    I think it would be nice if the second division broke up into two regular season leagues E/W, and then a combined playoff. Ideally they would partner with MLS.

  7. V says:

    Ives do you have an answer to this? I’ve wondered the same.

  8. Modibo says:

    I hope there IS a second division next year… Here in Baltimore we’d like to see a much stronger franchise, preferably rebranded to reflect the actual location of the team to make it easier for casual fans and civic backers to get behind the team.

  9. yankiboy says:

    No disrepcet to you intended but here in Baltimore, personally–I’d be thrilled if we managed to go back to having a THIRD division team. I am dead serious. If we managed to have USL PRO side in the third division (which will most likely be the defacto second division when this soap opera plays out)– I would consider us luckly.

    I appreciate everyting that the Medds and Jim Cherneski have done for us and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for giving us a club for four seasons.

    If the club survives and reorganizes, the rebranding is a must. I agree.

    We were fine in the third division. We were a strong third division side. I am not convinced that we are a second division town. Sure, Palace Baltimore could have done some things differently. Maybe we could be a second division town. There’s just nothing that I have seen since 2007 to indicate to me that we are capable of maintaining a franchise to compete in a second division as the NASL/USL1/USSF D2 were implemented.

  10. yankiboy says:

    Lots of people agree but MLS has no interest in a second division other than taking some of it’s better players, markets and occasionaly front office staff…

  11. Josh D says:

    It’s based on whether to give power to the league or the owners…

  12. Felix says:

    Even though I don’t watch it, I think it’s important to have a second divisions, and lesser divisions for that matter.

  13. yankiboy says:

    What a night we had down in Cary on Saturday night!!! Being with my Islanders’ family. Cheering, singing, celebrating with the team.

    Much respect to the Cary police and stadium security for letting Islanders supporters down on the field for a good 15 minutes after the match had ended before the trophy presentation.

    Being an Islanders’ supporter since our debut season in ’04, the chance to hold onto the trophy was sweet. The “afterparty” that Islanders ownership threw for the club and fans in the VIP section at some swank nightclub in downtown Raliegh was a trip. Not really my scene personally (I’m just too old, tired and boring for that scene) It was first class and it is was a great way to continue celebrating with the players, coaching staff, ownership group, directors, players families and other fans.

    And most of all, it was another chance for me to try and tell every player member of the organization who travelled (and there were a LOT who travelled) how much Puerto Rico Islanders FC means to me. It was another chance to thank them.

    I loved them when they only won 5 games in a season. I love them now.

    I have NEVER loved a club–in any sport–like I love Puerto Rico Islanders FC.

    I got no’ shame about it. Puerto Rico Islanders FC–Campeones!

    La Tropa Naranja Baby!

    I’m just another footsoldier for General Colin Clarke…

  14. yankiboy says:

    @Vik, I am going to give you an oversimplified, answer to your question–the poor man’s got other thing to do with my life that rehash all of the drama version in 20 words or less. What divides the two camps:

    Basic management practices, owners’ rights, a lot of bad blood and a lot of EGO.

  15. Will-SBI says:

    Actually, no MLS team has officially been invited yet. However, according to MLS, it seems like a foregone conclusion.

    link to mlssoccer.com

  16. yankiboy says:

    Travis, maximun respect for covering the division all season long.

    I have to piggyback on what Hood Rich wrote though: Carolina Railhawks are a good team and ambitious–just look at the Mexican and other clubs that they have brought to play them at Cary. Look at their production for the webcasts. Look at their marketing.

    I have nothing but respect for them.

    Add beating LA Galaxy, Toronto FC–heck, I count the draw with the Crew last season in CCL play in Bayamon as something to be proud of.

    There are too many results in the last couple of years to be flukes… On any given night, a little second division club, based someplace without a traditional soccer tradition might just wreck your day and send your supporters home disgusted. The name of that team would be Puerto Rico Islanders FC.

    PRI FC is NOT an “improbable” champion. The simple truth is that the club was designed to win the USSF D2, the Caribbean Club Championship and to get out of CONCACAF Champions’ League play (hey-two out of three isn’t bad–they almost pulled of all three).

    Colin Clarke to Islanders ownership and management that the goal was to make it into the USSF D2 playoffs

    and then he would help guide the squad to the USSF D2 crown. He told people not to panic. Club President Andres Guillemard made similar statements to the press.

    Islanders FC is ambitious. The club played a ridiculous amount of games since the Caribbean club Championship back in the spring. What the club has done is freaking fantastic.

    Islanders don’t have MLS economic resources. The flights almost always have connectors and layovers. A 4 hour flight for an MLS club can easily be an 8 hour flight for Puerto Rico. The players and the coaching staff sacrifice comfort in order for ownership to help come up with the money to undetake new challenges.

    Since late march they have played in Trinidad, Honduras, Mexico,and El Salvador in addition to their fixtures in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico.

    Some of the players and technical staff had Puerto Rican National team members has international duty last month for the Digicel/Gold Cup Qualification, in addition to USSF D2 playoffs.

    Guys manned up. They played something ridiculous like 10 games in a 30 day period between 6 different countries.

    They never whined. or made excuses about a lack of depth. They just handled their biznez.

    It was anything but an “improbable” run. It was all by design. That is the way that the sqaud was built. The club won the USL1 regular season in ’08 only to fall to the Vancouver Whitecaps in the final.

    These guys knew how to travel, how to get results. They played with mad heart. Clarke, Whitbread and Stefanowski andf others guided them and helped them achieve their goal. And the ownership laid out the coins, paying the price for such high ambitions. Cost, even in coach, it costs a lot of money to fly 23 people all around the US, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America.

    And guess what??? No rest for the “overly ambitious”:

    Tomorrow they start the CFU/CONCACAF Champions League qualification process in the Puerto Rican SuperCopa DirectTV. That’s right. Some of the samee guys who have played in the 47 games since April are about to suit up again.

    Straight up “hardcore”…

    (SBI-You’re making a lot of the word “improbable”, perhaps it wasn’t the best word, but let’s face it. They went from at one point being in last place, to being the last seed in the playoffs, to winning it. Improbable shouldn’t be seen as an insult, but as a testament to the tough road they took to get there. If you get in as the 8th seed and win it, that’s improbable. Congrats on the title Yankiboy, everyone knows you’re the biggest PR Islanders fan here.)

  17. Martindavida says:

    you forgot to mention la galaxy in that list

  18. TimN says:

    Firstly, hats off to PR for getting the job done at home, because that’s what saved them. I went to the 2nd leg, and have to say that PR was COMPLETELY dominated in possession all night by Carolina. PR put one guy forward, and played a 4-3-2-1 set, basically packing the defense. Other than their one early goal, they rarely put anything together out of the midfield on offense that was meaningful. Conversely, Carolina enjoyed quite a bit of possession but missed on several good opportunities. PR narrowly avoided a very quick 2-1 deficit after going up early 1-0 when Carolina quickly answered, and then missed a direct kick just outside the box that went off the crossbar. However, as well know soccer is a game of momentum, and as the game drew on, Carolina became increasingly frustrated. PR simply made one long defensive clearance after another. The late red card and PK against Carolina was kind of weak…it was an aggresive challenge by a terminal defender, but he was definitely going for ball…could have gone either way, especially given some of the plays the ref decided to make no-calls on during the course of the match.

    However, as the old saying goes, the “Soccer Gods” weren’t smiling on the Railhawks.

  19. Hood Rich says:

    Yes, and Toluca too. These were all impressive wins. So if you’ve seen how they play, there was never a doubt of their pedigree. It was just a matter of time when they would get the D2 title.

  20. Rufus T. Firefly says:

    With a result like that, I would expect Colin Clarke is back in MLS much sooner than later. Very impressive work by Clarke, his staff and the players over the last two seasons. They have every reason to be proud of their accomplishments.

  21. SilverRey says:

    The Islanders are definite giant killers! They keep on popping up in all of the North American tournaments and showing VERY well for themselves. Very impressed with the amount that they have accomplished with minimal resources…

  22. doktoramor says:

    Still nursing wounds from the Rhinos loss…

  23. yankiboy says:

    Thanks for the congratulations. They are sincerely appreciated. I was never perceived and sort of “insult”. I was just a bit “amused” by the word selection. Seriously, no offense was taken.

    From the outside, I can easily understand how one could find the run to be “improbable”. All I was saying is that upon further review, it wasn’t really all that “shocking”…

    General Colin Clarke is crazy like a fox and I am glad that he was sent to us “on loan” for a while and that our ownership and front office dared to invest a lot of money into trying to achieve accomplishments that many doubted were possible for a club that was predicted to fold after only playing 7 matches like the first version of USISL (now the USL).

    Like we like to say around my way–Everything from the club surviving it’s inaugural season–“it’s all been gravy” and I try not to take any of it for granted.

  24. yankiboy says:

    You guys got a great young team and like Clarke, Lilley is accused of being “boring” by many the the guys wins.

    I expect you guys to dominate USL PRO next year even if I don’t believe the smoke that Lilley is blowing about it NOT being a step down.