Puerto Rican Supporters Set to Pack Shuart for Cosmos, PRFC Meeting

IMAGE, PUERTO RICO FC

by JAKE NUTTING

It could be considered one of the biggest missed connections in the history of U.S. soccer. There are over 700,000 proud Puerto Ricans living in New York City, and yet tragically, the Puerto Islanders folded up shop just six months after the New York Cosmos announced their return to the field for the 2013 season.

However, the Caribbean island is back in the NASL this year — thanks to the financial backing of owner and New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony. The new club goes by the straightforward name of Puerto Rico FC, so those in New York who have been eagerly awaiting a chance to support a club tied to their Island roots won’t have the nostalgia of the Islanders name.

But that can be pushed aside after four years of waiting.

Several hundred Puerto Ricans are expected to pack into Shuart this weekend to cheer on the newly minted club that kicked off its inaugural season at the start of July. Helping to organize the support on Saturday (and at every away match so far for the expansion side) is La Legión Extranjera — a worldwide supporters group for PRFC.

The Legion actually out-dates the nascent club that it now rallies behind. The core group of members living outside of Puerto Rico who help lead the group did the same for the defunct Islanders and has always operated with the main purpose of coordinating away support for the Island’s clubs.

“That is our main goal because we are part of that audience,” says Kristian Vazquez, a Legion member based in Miami. “In Puerto Rico there is already a very solid group of supporters so we’re trying to fill that other gap of fans outside of the Island. But more importantly, there is a very large population of Puerto Ricans living outside the Island and that number is only growing.

“For us, there is always a desire to support our sports teams, our cultural activities, etc. and on the other hand it definitely helps with that sense of home sickness to hear your anthem before the game and see homegrown talent like Hector ‘Pito’ Ramos headline the team.”

PRFC’s tough task in building a roster less than year after the announcement that they would join also posed a challenge for the Legion, with leadership member Rafael Hernandez  of DC saying they are still in “rebuild and reconnect mode” in the first month of play. Still, though, the showing has been mightily impressive for PRFC’s first three away matches thanks to outreach on social media.

IMAGE, LA LEGION EXTRANEJA

IMAGE, LA LEGION EXTRANJERA

“We’ve seen several hundred fans in Tampa Bay and Jacksonville, which is great,” says Vazquez. “Florida has a very large Puerto Rican community so we expected to see fans at those games but I have been pleasantly surprised with how many people have been showing up to support the team. While many of them already enjoy soccer, there is a group that shows up to support their team from Puerto Rico and hopefully become further invested in the sport.”

With Jacksonville, Oklahoma City and Tampa Bay serving as a warm up act of sorts, all eyes will now be on what kind of turnout PRFC can muster in New York — the city which remains the largest home to Puerto Ricans in the states.

“I think this game will certainly be a big one to see how many people come out and support the team,” explains Vazquez. “NYC is not a market that the Islanders really visited much so we are all interested in seeing how many fans come out. Also, with the Carmelo Anthony and Puerto Rican Day Parade connection there is hope that the community in the city embraces the team or takes some interest at least.”

The Cosmos will also be curious to see what kind of crowd Saturday’s match pulls in. The club has struggled to draw consistently at Shuart, but the possibility of hosting a derby-like atmosphere in the absence of any geographic rivals within the NASL offers them a unique opportunity.

“There’s a strong connection between the New York and Puerto Rican communities,” offers Cosmos COO Erik Stover. “Many families are split between the two areas.  Over time we think a strong rivalry can build between the two clubs.

“At the moment, the NASL has few visiting fans because of the travel distances.  Hopefully we’ll see a lot of PRFC at our game this weekend and that Cosmos fans will chose Puerto Rico as an annual road trip.”

Vazquez echoes the sentiment that a potential rivalry between PRFC and the Cosmos is an exciting prospect, saying “Definitely! I think it would be very interesting to have the team’s first rivalry in a market that already means a lot to the team through the Puerto Rican community in the city as well as Carmelo.”

  • Larry\’s A Simpleton

    “Several Hundred” are expected to “pack” Shuart Stadium?

    Seriously Jack, do you write this stuff with a straight face? lol. then again several hundred can be considered packing shuart stadium.

    • Jimbo

      Jake, not Jack, you joke.

      • Larry\’s A Simpleton

        jake? jack? whats the difference jumbo?

        f.cosmos gonna get more than 2ooo to shuart? gonna be tough with everybodys attention pointing at yankee stadium.

        • slowleftarm

          Can’t blame these guys for getting excited about the prospect of fans actually coming to one of their games. They won’t be there to see the world famous global brand known as Hempstead Cosmos but when you draw like the Cosmos draw, you can’t be picky.

          • slowlefttroll

            Cosmos surely appreciate that you share your business wisdom. You are truly a giver.

            Either that or an internet troll.

    • Hernando Peralta

      They will lucky If they’ll have 4000 of people in the stands if so…

  • Alex gago

    Its really sad to witness American soccer fans cheering on the death of an iconic soccer club like the Cosmos. You don’t see that sort of soccer cannibalism behavior in other more mature leagues across the world. Afterall as Americans we don’t have many globally recognized American soccer brands.

    • i dont care

      what? people in england loved the fall of Leeds, and are loving Man Utd’s recent struggles? additionally Rangers fall to the fourth tier was one of the most celebrated moments in scottish football history? sit down

      • Alex gago

        I understand your pro relogation logic and I would fo the same if I were living in England but we dont have pro/rel in America.

    • Larry\’s A Simpleton

      if f.cosmos fanboys like leo, jsprech, opencupfan, onionsack, lilttle boy billie and any other number of brain dead turds who infest the internet werent such dooshbags they wouldnt catch half the grief they do. these idiots invite thss on themselves. everyone on metrofanatic, big soccer and other forums love dumping all over the f.cosmos fanboys.

  • MTF

    The Cosmos have tried to spin this story linking the current club to the past glories of the old club…they were supposed to be the NASL’s marquee team. They only seem to draw a home crowd when they play an appealing visiting side like NYCFC, the Red Bulls, and now possibly Puerto Rico.