Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Know your enemy #2: The Blue Hurricane

Canadian city of comparable size: Between Montreal, QC (3.3m) and Toronto, ON (4.8m)

National team nickname: "The Blue Hurricane"
Best ever FIFA ranking: 97th (March 1994)
ELO ranking: 188 (as of 2 August 2011)
National team coach: Colin Clarke is currently national team coach. However, during Sunday's Montreal Impact broadcast it was mentioned that we would not be coaching the team during World Cup qualifying. Take that for what it's worth.

Puerto Rico were among the top 24 sides in CONCACAF as of the March 2011 rankings, so they did not have to compete in a Round 1 two-legged playoff. They last played a competitive match on 26 October 2010, a 1-0 loss to fellow Group D members, St Kitts and Nevis.


In spite of the stars and stripes font, a pretty ballin' jersey, if I do say so myself.

# of players on team that I've heard of: 0. If I had paid closer attention to the Impact-Islanders game on TV last Sunday, I would have recognized a bunch. We all know about Marco Velez, who is listed as national team captain
Best players, judging by professional pedigree: According to wikipedia, the last edition of the national team features 5 members of the NASL's Puerto Rico Islanders. The rest is a smattering of NASL, college, other domestic players and lower division American leagues, plus two players in Europe on teams I've never heard of. Nobody stands out.

Canada's history against Puerto Rico: Canada has never played against Puerto Rico.

PREDICTION: Although rankings may suggest otherwise, my own feeling is that Puerto Rico is Canada's most dangerous opponent in the group. If they bring a strong contingent of Islanders players, they may be a more cohesive bunch that can set out to stall the Canadian attack. Therefore, my expectations are more in the neighbourhood of 2-0 or 3-1 victories, rather than the heavier blowouts I'm hoping for against the other teams.

DATES (home team first)
6 September 2011: Puerto Rico vs Canada
11 October 2011: Canada vs Puerto Rico (BMO Field, Toronto, ON)


footycanuck said...

Perhaps we should have a warm-up game between CMNT and the Impact. The result might give us an idea of what to expect against a predominantly Islanders Puerto Rico national team.

My projections are more conservative ...Canada 3-2 on aggregate.


J said...

Such a close prediction means you think the two teams are relatively equal and Canada could easily bow out in round one. I like to think I'm realistic about Canada's chances (I put our odds of advancing from a group with Cuba, Honduras and Panama at about 40%) but I think this upcoming round will be a cakewalk.

Anonymous said...

What you missed in your analysis was four years ago in qualifying PR were knocked out by Honduras. Losing 4-0 away but a very respectable 2-2 draw at home. From this I thought they would have put up a stronger fight on Sep 6th. Colin Clarke was the team coach for those games and his knowledge and experience will be missed in these qualifiers. Hoping there are still some surprises in store.

J said...

Thanks Anon for your comments.

I too was a bit surprised at how easily PR were handled by Canada in September (though, to be fair, the match was 1-0 at 80 minutes). If Puerto Rico is going to surprise, you'd have to think a win tomorrow against St Kitts is an absolute must.

If Canada and PR were both to win Friday, that would leave Canada at 9 points, with PR and SKN at 4 each. Even if Puerto Rico were to then win on Tuesday in Toronto, they'd still need help from SKN in the last two fixtures to advance.

I don't think qualification by any team other than Canada is likely, but for the sake of interest in the group, and for the sake of fans (of which there seem to be some in PR, not so much for the other two teams), I hope the Blue Hurricane beat the Sugar Boys tomorrow.