The first year of the USL Pro will definitely be an interesting one. With the 15 team league being divided into 3 divisions, I will cover each one separately in the lead up to the first game on Saturday, April 2nd. First up, the International Division:
The International Division is the most intriguing of the 3. The teams include 3 in Puerto Rico, 1 in Antigua, and 1 in Los Angeles. This puts a lot of space between the teams, and long distance travel will be a factor for all five.
All of the teams have played out their preseason schedules, filled out their rosters, and prepared for the season. And here's how I think they will finish.
5: Puerto Rico United: It could be a long season for Puerto Rico United. The main weapon for United is 22 year old, Andrés Cabrero. He has scored 0 goals in 20 games at a professional level both in Puerto Rico and Serbia, but has scored 2 goals in 8 appearances for the Puerto Rico U20 National Team, as well as 1 goal in 10 appearances for the Senior Team. Colombian midfield Carlos Gutiérrez will be the leader of the team and will have to lead a team that doesn't look like it will be very successful.
4: Los Angeles Blues: The only team west of the Mississippi in the USL Pro, will have to overcome a lot of long distance travel this season. The Blues are brand new, and this will be their competitive debut. The team has a lot of young talent, especially on the attack. This includes 23 Jaime Chavez, who scored 21 goals in 31 appearances for Hollywood United in the PDL last year, as well as Israel Sesay who had 3 assists in 14 appearances for the United States U17 team from 2006-2008. The defense will be led by former Galaxy player Mike Randolph, and Welsh defender Gareth Evans.
3. Sevilla FC Puerto Rico: Sevilla FC will be playing a sixth season as club, and will be joining the USL Pro after playing in the Puerto Rico Soccer League. Forward Christopher Megaloudis, son of head coach Michael Megaloudis, will head the attack of Sevilla and has scored 5 goals in 9 appearances for the Puerto Rican National Team. Megaloudis had a short stint with MLS side, New York Red Bulls. Goalkeeper David Sierra is good, and was with the Real Madrid reserves for 6 years, and played in the lower divisions of Spain for many years.
2. Antigua Barracuda FC: I think that Antigua could be this year's surprise. Antigua's team is made up mostly of players on the Antigua and Barbuda National Team. Forward Peter Byers is a great addition to the team. He has scored 12 goals in 24 appearances for the National Team. He has experience at the top USL level, as he played with the Montreal Impact for 3 seasons, scoring 9 goals in 39 appearances. Tamorley Thomas who has scored 5 goals in 18 appearances for the Antigua and Barbuda National Team will also have to step up for the Barracudas. Captain George Dublin will have to play well on the back line to help brand new keeper, Miguel Baez.
1. River Plate Puerto Rico: River Plate seems to be the consensus for the champion of the International Division, and I have to agree. Cuban Julio César Maya Cruz will be a key to their offense, he scored 22 goals in 30 appearances for Sevilla FC Puerto Rico in the 2009 season. Veteran midfielder Petter Villegas will have to be a leader for the otherwise young team. They looked very good in a preseason win against the Puerto Rico Islanders, and could make a good run in the playoffs. They also played well in the Caribbean Football Union Club Championship and have a chance to be playing in the next edition of the CONCACAF Champions League.
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