September 27, 2012 (Bayamon, PR) - The Puerto Rico Islanders took three points tonight in their final game of their CONCACAF Champions League campaign when they beat Isidro Metapán 3-0 at Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium. Even though they had no chance of advancing to the next stage, the Islanders kept their home safe and eliminated Metapán from the competition, taking revenge for being eliminated by the Salvadorian team last year.  Now the Islanders focus on their NASL playoff match next Sunday, September 30th when they face the Minnesota Stars for a pass to the semifinals. 

The away side started well, with Paolo Suarez’s long range drive,  forcing Islander's keeper Cody Laurendi into a good save- with the rebound just escaping the feet of Nicolas Muñoz. The away side continued to add pressure early on, testing Laurendi with some difficult set pieces. 

The young goalkeeper had to be at his best to parry the efforts, with the crossbar coming to his rescue inside 12 minutes, when another vicious delivery almost crept in. The Islanders hit back however when Jarad van Schaik set Hector Ramos through on goal, only for the Puerto Rican forward to put his shot just wide of the right hand post. 

In what would prove to be a busy first half for the young Laurendi- he was once again called into action in the 22nd minute when Nicolas Muñoz attempted a fierce drive that stung the palms of Laurendi, and earned Metapán another corner kick. 

At the other end, Ramos was proving to be increasingly difficult for the Metapán defense to handle, and on thirty five minutes he really should have given the Islanders the lead. Neat build up play left Ramos one on one with Mondragón in the Metapán goal- unfortunately for the home side, Ramos directed his shot straight at the keeper, with the rebound being scrambled away by the Metapán defence. 

Just moments later, Ramos thought he had finally given his si#mce_temp_url#de the lead- only for the assistant referee to rule his effort offside much to the disappointment of the forward. However, at the fifth time of asking, Ramos finally converted and gave the Islanders the lead their pressure deserved. 

Pouncing on a defensive mistake by the Metapán back line, the young forward raced through on goal, before smashing the ball past the helpless Mondragón. The forward celebrated in some style with an assortment of backflips proving just how delighted he was to break his duck for the evening- with his strike giving the Islanders a single goal lead at half time.

As the action began in the second half, we saw our first yellow card of the evening as Metapán’s Ramon Sanchez entered the referee’s notebook. Moments later Andrés Pérez crashed a drive just wide of the Metapán goal, as the Islanders looked to assert their dominance early in the half. 

With Metapán continuing to threaten through set plays, the Islanders took their chance to launch a rapid counter attack when Laurendi collected a corner kick and quickly found Marrero who raced in behind the Metapán backline. It would be Marrero’s last action of the night as he was replaced by Gregory Richardson with just over a third of the game to go. 

Just before the hour mark, Mondragón was once again called into action, denying Ramos his second of the night with a smart save low down. 

Not to be outdone by his counterpart, Laurendi will have no doubt impressed coach Adrian Whitbread, after performing another fantastic stop in the 62nd minute, as he denied substitute Jorge Ramirez’s with his first shot of the game. 

And moments later Laurendi would provide arguably the save of the evening- once again denying Ramirez, this time through a header that was promptly converted by his Panamanian team-mate Muñoz- only for the assistant referee to call offside on the play and keep the Islanders lead intact. 

The home side continued to press for a second,  with Ramos being at the centre of everything the Islanders produced in the attacking third. After almost squaring for a teammate, Ramos would grab both his and the Islander’s second of the evening. A delightful chipped pass from Joshua Hansen getting Ramos in behind the Metapán backline, before the forward comfortably fired the ball past Mondragón with a left foot drive. 

Not too long after that, Ramos almost earned himself the match ball, when another fast counter attacking move saw the forward in behind the away team’s backline, only for it to be frantically cleared by the Metapán defense. That clearance in turn allowed the visitors to spring an attacking move of their own, with Laurendi once again up to the task as he looked to maintain his side’s clean sheet. 

With 2 minutes to go, Yaw Danso replaced Joshua Hansen and the Ghanian was instantly given the opportunity to add his name to the scoresheet when he was sent through down the right hand side, only for his tame effort to be scrambled away by a frantic looking Metapán defender. 

As the fourth official announced five minutes of injury time, substitute Gregory Richardson secured all three points for the Islanders with a well taken finish. The Guyana international was forced to shift the ball to the right of the goalkeeper before slotting it through the legs of the Metapán defender on the line. 

The goal provided a nice gloss for the Islanders who despite failing to qualify will no doubt be pleased with their performance. Meanwhile for Metapán, this means the end of their CONCACAF Champions League campaign as the El Salvadorian side needed at least a draw from tonight if they were to stand any chance of qualifying for the next round. 

MOTM- Hector Ramos, the striker could easily have had a hat-trick tonight for the Islanders but had to settle for a brace instead. His pace and solid hold up play was a thorn in the side of Metapán all evening as the away team struggled to cope with the Puerto Rican international. 

Speaking after the game- coach Adrian Whitbread confirmed how pleased he was with his side’s performance, and sent a rallying call to Islander’s fans ahead of Sunday’s clash with the Minnesota Stars. 

“I’m very proud of them tonight,” Whitbread said, “These players deserve to have this stadium full come Sunday night. These players are not only playing for the Islanders but for the country of Puerto Rico.” 

The coach also took time out to discuss forward Hector Ramos, with Whitbread keen to note his striker could easily have had more than the two goals he finished the evening with: 

“Hector has to learn.  He’s scored two goals, we’ve won the game so just walk away. He’s got attitude, which is why he scored the two goals tonight, but I’ll be telling him he should have scored six,” Whitbread said. 

“He’ll be the first to say its no coincidence he scored two tonight because of the session he was in this morning practicing finishing.” 

“The harder you practice, the harder you work, the world  can be what it wants to be for you.” 

With the evening representing the last of the Islander’s fixtures in the CONCACAF Champions League, Whitbread praised stand in goalkeeper Cody Laurendi’s performance, and also spoke of his side’s goals for their campaign. 

“The key to it was, I wanted to finish with the most points from the Caribbean. I don’t know how the two other teams from the Caribbean have got on, but that was our goal,” Whitbread explained. 

“I think the keeper came up big for us with some saves, but I think if we’d won this game five or six nil no one would have questioned the result. That team has now put themselves in the plans for Sunday, whether they go into my plans and play, we’ll see.” 

The Islanders will begin their playoff run this Sunday, September 30th at Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium when they receive the Minnesota Stars in the NASL Quarterfinal Round at 6:00pm.