- The Boricuas are drawn into Group F with Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Guyana and Bahamas.
- The 2019-20 CNL campaign in League C saw them collect a pair of wins over Anguilla, which served as a big confidence boost.
MIAMI, Florida – Puerto Rico will be looking to take a big step forward in the international arena when Concacaf World Cup Qualifying for Qatar 2022 kicks off this fall.
The Boricuas are drawn into Group F with Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Guyana and Bahamas, and with their first two matches scheduled for at Saint Kitts and Nevis and at home against top-seed Trinidad and Tobago, Puerto Rico know they will have their work cut out for them.
“From personal relationships, in Trinidad and Tobago you have Mekeil Williams, Joevin Jones, Cordell Cato, so keeping that in mind and knowing that the quality footballers that they are, we expect them to give us our hardest test,” said Puerto Rico GK Cody Laurendi.
“That’s not taking anything away from Saint Kitts and Nevis, Guyana or Bahamas, but [Trinidad and Tobago] have proven themselves over the years even if they are in a bit of a downturn. They have great quality. Kevin Molino and all of the guys I have played against multiple times in my career; I know that is going to be a massive test. The positive is that they will be coming to us. We’ll be playing them in Mayaguez which will be a different atmosphere. We’re playing Saint Kitts and Nevis again. I don’t know if Atiba Harris is going to be playing, but they show well against us too,” added Laurendi.
Part of Puerto Rico’s preparation process has involved the coaching staff reaching out to players potentially eligible to play for Puerto Rico, which could go a long way to helping the National Team.
“From our standpoint, I know our coaching staff has reached out to USL Championship players, USL League One players to bring the level up a bit on the National Team, so we’re definitely looking forward to that. It seems like anything can happen in Caribbean football and anything usually does,” said Laurendi.
The opening match at Saint Kitts and Nevis will feel very familiar for a Puerto Rico side that also began its Concacaf Nations League Qualifying campaign with a trip to take on the Sugar Boyz. In that September 2018 contest, Saint Kitts and Nevis earned a 1-0 win with a goal in the final minutes, and there is nothing that Laurendi and his teammates would like more than to avenge that defeat.
“Everyone was so excited to play that match and how it ended, it didn’t end in our favor. We did have a good showing, we just needed to be more clinical in the final third, but I think that everyone is looking forward to it to level things up,” said Laurendi.
While CNLQ ended with four narrow defeats for Puerto Rico, the 2019-20 CNL campaign in League C saw them collect a pair of wins over Anguilla, which served as a big confidence boost.
“If you are looking at the national team as a project, there is a young player pool. It’s maybe inexperienced, so those lessons in approaching a game not just from an emotional standpoint but a tactical standpoint; those are good learning experiences for the group as a whole and ones from which we will grow and learn in future matches. We understand that while excitement can get you through the first 20-25 minutes, an actual game plan and being tactically sound and defensively sound lends itself to winning matches,” said Laurendi.
Yet no matter what happens from a results standpoint, for Puerto Rico, the opportunity to showcase their football to the rest of the region is one that they will relish.
“It’s about pride and excitement and showcasing our skills individually and collectively in front of a number of eyes that will be watching. All this work culminates with this big opportunity,” concluded Laurendi.