Scouting The Opponent: Puerto Rico FC

Puerto Rico FC looks to play role of spoiler in New York
Published Oct 27, 2017

The New York Cosmos and Puerto Rico FC are probably very familiar with each other by now. On Saturday night, they meet for the sixth time this season and the third time in four weeks to conclude the regular season at MCU Park.

The Cosmos are 4-1-0 (W-D-L) against Puerto Rico this season, including wins in the two previous meetings this month. On October 1, the Cosmos earned a 1-0 win at MCU Park before a 4-1 triumph on October 18 at Central Broward Stadium in Lauderhill, FL.

Due to Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico FC has been playing all of their games on the U.S. mainland as relief efforts continue on the island. This game marks the end of a disappointing season for Puerto Rico FC, who have been long eliminated from playoff contention.

However, they have found their stride lately as they come into Saturday’s game having won back-to-back matches for the first time all season. Currently, they are the only team in the league to be coming off two straight victories.

On October 21, they earned their first road win of the season, 2-1 over Indy Eleven. On Wednesday night in Kissimmee, FL, they dispatched FC Edmonton 2-0 to climb to sixth place in the Fall Season standings. However, they still sit at the bottom of the Combined Standings with 25 points.

Below are a few players the Cosmos will need to stop in order to prevent Puerto Rico FC from spoiling the home finale in Brooklyn.

Goalkeeper: Austin Pack

Austin Pack, Puerto Rico FC’s 23-year-old goalkeeper, has started each of his club’s last five games. While veteran, Trevor Spangenberg, got most of the starts for the first few months of the season, Puerto Rico has turned to its young goalkeeper late in the year, and he has provided results.

Pack has been in net for three of PRFC’s five wins on the season, including the back-to-back wins in his last two starts. For the season, Pack has stopped 27 of 46 shots for a 58.7 save percentage. However, he has struggled against New York, giving up four goals and lost in each of his previous two games against the Cosmos while stopping just four of 12 shots directed his way.

Defender: Phanuel Kavita

A workhorse on Puerto Rico FC’s defense, 24-year-old Phanuel Kavita, has been strong in his first season with the club. Appearing in 26 games, the Congolese defender has been good with the ball, completing 84.2 percent of his passes on the season while winning 25 of his 32 tackles.

The Cosmos may look to attack Kavita as he has conceded 27 fouls on the season while winning just 10. With five yellow cards on the season, Kavita ranks second on the club. So if the Cosmos can frustrate Kavita in his own end, they may be able to earn free kicks in dangerous positions, which have led to goals lately.

Midfielder: Walter Ramírez

One of the most experienced players in the NASL is 33-year-old midfielder, Walter Ramírez. The veteran of 137 NASL regular season games began his career in the league with the San Antonio Scorpions in 2012 and has since played for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Indy Eleven, and Tampa Bay Rowdies before signing with Puerto Rico FC for the 2017 season.

The 2017 season has been a strong one for the midfielder, as he has appeared in 28 games, the most he’s played in a single NASL season. If he plays more than 61 minutes, he will pass his career-high in minutes set in 2012.

While Ramírez has yet to do much damage against New York this season, he had a career day against the Cosmos while playing for Fort Lauderdale on August 8, 2015. That day, he scored the only brace of his NASL career with a pair of second half goals in a 3-3 draw.

Forward: Giuseppe Gentile

If the recent trend were to continue, the Cosmos probably would not have to worry about defending forward, Giuseppe Gentile, until late in the match. In each of his last three appearances, the forward has come on late in the game as a substitute. Currently tied for third in the NASL and leading his club with five assists while also scoring four times, the 25-year-old is a threat to watch when he takes the field.

Gentile has been good against New York this season. In PRFC’s game at New York on October 1, Gentile fired a season-high six shots toward the New York goal, with just one hitting the target. On May 14, he scored the opening goal as Puerto Rico blew an early 2-0 lead in a 4-3 loss in Brooklyn.

Previously, Gentile was a member of the 2014 San Antonio Scorpions squad that handed the Cosmos their only loss in The Championship playoffs to date. That season, he appeared as a substitute for both playoff games as the Scorpions captured the NASL Championship.

To purchase tickets to watch the Cosmos and PRFC in the final game of the regular season, click here