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Islanders Take First Leg of USSF D2 Championship

The Puerto Rico Islanders found their way to a first leg victory at Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium, downing the Carolina RailHawks 2-0 Sunday evening.  The eighth-seeded Islanders will take their two goal aggregate lead to Cary, North Carolina next Saturday in the series 2nd leg.

The first half of the match was scoreless.  Carolina seemed to take a defensive posture, not forcing a save from Islanders’ goalkeeper Bill Gaudette in the first 45 minutes.  The Islanders, playing before a home crowd of over 6,200, generated more offense and forced RailHawks’ goalkeeper Eric Reed to scramble a few times but were unable to beat the former UCLA Bruin.  The Islanders’ midfielder Sandy Gbandi looked to give Puerto Rico the lead, but his goal was called back on a foul.

Gbandi made good in the second half, though.  Four minutes after intermission, Gbandi got ahold of a long throw-in by Islander defender Marco Velez and struck past Reed to put the Islanders ahead.  Carolina forward Tom Heinemann responded quickly, nodding a header towards the Islanders’ goal that caromed off the post.  Heinemann, whose lanky athleticism has boosted the RailHawk’s attack since coming over from the Battery, was referred to as the RailHawk’s man of the match by the Islanders’ commentator.

Carolina Coach Martin Rennie brought in substitutes Gregory Richardson and Scotsman Allen Russell to equalize with about twenty minutes remaining in the match.  Rennie has had great success with his judicious use of substitutes this season, but although Carolina began pressing the Islanders’ defense, they were unable to score.  Dominican Republic forward Jonathan Fana was Coach Colin Clarke’s first sub for Puerto Rico, and Fana’s insertion paid off as Fana slashed through the RailHawks’ defense with about three minutes left in regulation to double the Islanders’ lead.  Fana’s goal may prove quite important as the series will be decided on aggregate goals.  Bill Gaudette made three second half saves for Puerto Rico in earning the shutout.

Congratulations to the Islanders organization and Coach Clarke on taking the first leg of the Championship series.  They are only 90 minutes away from becoming USSF D2 2010 champions, and showed character and pride after being eliminated from the CONCACAF Champions League last Wednesday. 

Puerto Rico Starting Lineup:  Gaudette, Velez, Rivera, Martinez, Emory, Nurse, Gbandi, Delgado, Jagdeosingh, Hansen, Foley  Subs Used: Fana, Allison, Miranda, Telesford

Carolina Starting Lineup:  Reed, Woolard, Rusin, Low, Elenio, Watson, Lowery, Gardner, Franks, Heinemann, Barbara  Subs Used:  Richardson, Russell

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