Puerto Rico progressing ahead of key Caribbean Cup games

Emmanuel D'Andrea (white jersey) is on Puerto Rico's roster for Caribbean Cup third-round matches in October 2016. (Photo courtesy of Federación Puertorriqueña de Fútbol)

BAYAMÓN, Puerto Rico – Puerto Rico’s quest to earn a first-ever berth in the CONCACAF Gold Cup continues Saturday, when it hosts Antigua & Barbuda in a third-round match at the Estadio Juan Ramon Loubriel.

A first-place finish in Group 3 would see the Boricuas accomplish their objective, but they could also secure the lifeline of a playoff that will be contested in November between the three best runners-up from the four groups. 

The Puerto Ricans survived two earlier rounds and have an overall tournament record of 2-1-1 through June.

Carlos Cantarero -- named head coach in July -- has been delighted with the progress made during team’s current training camp.

“It makes me happy to have the team working together because there has been a bit of an effort on the federation’s part, on part of everyone and on part of the players also,” said the 54-year-old, who has extensive managerial experience most especially with teams in his native Spain and Central America.  “We practically have everyone and that allows us to work.  I am happy because we continue to advance.  The boys are contributing a lot.  They are being professionals, very willing as to what is being asked.  The truth is that we are working very well…sincerely better than what I had hoped for.”

Cantarero’s tactical emphasis is being placed on both sides of the ball.  The Puerto Ricans have scored nine goals and conceded five in the competition thus far, posting their only clean sheet against an Anguilla side that failed to score in either of its matches.

“The focus is going to be on the tactical work, relating with what we want to do and how we want to play, as much in the offensive aspect as the defensive and having clear ideas,” Cantarero stressed.  “It is very important to know what it is that we want to do in each match.”

With a squad that includes forwards Hector Ramos (four goals in last two Caribbean Cup games) and Olvin Ortiz (two goals) and defender Juan Coca (two goals), Cantarero believes that components for success at his disposal.

“I see the players with a good technical level, a good physical level,” he finished.  “I think that we have footballing variety.  We don’t have only a team of players, but we have variety and I think that if we are capable of linking up all that and that things go well, and if we have a touch of luck, things will go well for us.”

Puerto Rico earned a 2-1 win over visiting Antigua & Barbuda in their Caribbean Cup second-round meeting on June 4, 2016.  Ramos scored both goals in victory.