2017 Preview: Puerto Rico FC

2016 Season Review

Puerto Rico FC entered their debut season with high expectations.

Marking the NASL’s return to the island after a four year absence, owner Carmelo Anthony and President Thomas Payne assembled an impressive staff and squad of talent not only from abroad, but locally as well. Englishman Adrian Whitbread was brought in as Head Coach following an stint as an assistant at League Two side Barnet FC. Locally, the signings of Héctor Ramos, Jorge Rivera, and Joseph Marrero all represented a desire by Anthony and Payne to create a club for Puerto Rico to truly connect to and be proud of. The club also returned to Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium, former home of the defunct Puerto Rico Islanders.

Puerto Rico gave a good showing in its inaugural campaign, finishing the Fall with a 5-9-8 record. However, the most important results for PRFC came outside of the league. The club hoisted the 2016 Copa Luis Villarejo in late November, earning the upstart club a spot in the Caribbean Club Championship in 2017.

Additions and Subtractions

Out

  • GK David Meves
  • D Ramon Martin Del Campo (Ottawa Fury)
  • M Connor Agnew
  • M Evans Frimpong
  • M Chris Nurse
  • M Oliver (Richmond Kickers)
  • F David Eduardo López
  • F Pedro
  • F Bljedi Bardic (in New York for “other professional opportunities”)

In

Over the course of the offseason, PRFC announced the return of Trevor Spangenberg, Rudy Dawson, Cristiano Diaz, Ramón Soria, Kyle Culbertson, Austin Pack, Michael Kafari, Tyler Rudy, Brian Bement, Sidney Rivera, Brian Bement, Sidney Rivera, Hector Ramos, Jorge Rivera, and Joseph Marrero.

  • GK Billy Thompson (Colorado Switchbacks FC)
  • D Seth Moses (FC Anyang)
  • D Jake Stovall (Seattle Sounders)
  • M Yuma (Rayo OKC)
  • M Walter Ramírez (Tampa Bay Rowdies)
  • M Jordi Quintillà (Sporting Kansas City)
  • F Connor Doyle (Colorado Rapids)
  • F Giuseppe Gentile (Ottawa Fury)
  • F Jairo Puerto (Honduras Progreso)

Preseason Thus Far

In preparation for the NASL season and March’s Caribbean Club Championship, Puerto Rico FC competed in and won the 7th Annual Bayamón City Cup, a tournament organized by the Puerto Rican Football Federation for the island’s club teams. PRFC stormed to the final with an astounding 32-0 aggregate in five games, and subsequently defeated Bayamon FC on penalties following a 1-1 draw to claim the tournament victory. Puerto Rico FC players occupied the top four spots in the top scorers list for the tournament, with Héctor Ramos leading the way with 7 goals.

Off the Pitch

This past offseason saw Puerto Rico FC deal with the same uncertainties as the rest of the NASL, but with one more problem to boot: the club was initially denied entry into the Caribbean Club Championship because their registration had been filed too late by the Puerto Rican Football Federation. The club had qualified for the tournament, whose top three finishers move on to the CONCACAF Champions League group stage, by winning the Luis Villarejo Cup. The issue was later rectified, allowing PRFC to compete in the competition. However, they were knocked out in the group stage after a 2-0-1 record during play.

Predicted Starting XI

Adrian Whitbread made a living off of flooding and tinkering with midfielders in his inaugural season at the helm of Puerto Rico FC, so expect much of the same to begin 2017. Whitbread employed 3-5-2 and 4-4-1-1 formations in the final five matches of last season after finding moderate success with a double 6 version of a 4-4-2 early on. The loss of Ramon Martin Del Campo (and lack of an adequate replacement on paper) all but eliminates the possibility of a three back set in the early stages of this year, but Dias and Soria will lead a back line that still holds some clout. An overloaded midfield, anchored by Tyler Rudy, sees newcomers Jorge Quintillà, Yuma, and Walter Ramirez lead the attack. One of last season’s biggest surprises, Héctor “Pito” Ramos, sits alone up top. While Ramos was plenty dangerous alone last year, newcomers Connor Doyle and Giuseppe Gentile would also work well in a partnership in Ramos. A shift to a two forward set would depend on Whitbread’s confidence in the back line three without Del Campo.

Predicted Finish 

Puerto Rico FC looks to build off a respectable Fall debut in its first full NASL campaign. Boasting one of the NASL top scorers from last season to go with a solid back line and revamped midfield, PRFC is a top contender for the NASL title this season. Players like Walter Ramirez and Jorge Quintillà will have to have stellar years for the club to truly go head to head with Miami FC and the New York Cosmos, but expect an exciting and successful playoff campaign from Whitbread’s squad nonetheless.

Final Grade: A-

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *