Isaac Angking, Devin Vega and Alec Diaz celebrate Puerto Rico's 1-0 victory against the Dominican Republic in an international exhibition on Tuesday evening. | Photo courtesy Puerto Rico Football Association
OKC Energy FC goalkeeper Cody Laurendi posted a shutout and former Louisville City FC loanee Sidney Rivera scored the only goal as Puerto Rico notched a 1-0 victory against the Dominican Republic in Santo Domingo, D.R. on Tuesday night for the country’s first victory against its regional rival since 2008.
A handful of notable players from the Championship were included in the starting lineup, including Birmingham Legion FC’s Jaden Servania, Memphis 901 FC’s Raul Gonzalez, Tacoma Defiance’s Alec Diaz and recent Real Monarchs SLC player Devin Vega. The contest also saw a national team debut for recent New England Revolution II standout Isaac Angking, who came on in the 80th minute.
The contest marked the start of Puerto Rico’s preparations for 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying, in which the country has been drawn in a group with Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Guyana and the Bahamas, but also the start of what the country is hoping is a new era for the Huracan Azul with young players such as Servania and Diaz looking to lead the way.
“Without a doubt, the goals are long-term with this team,” Puerto Rico Head Coach Elgy Morales told Jon Arnold recently. “We’ve got very young players and we’re hoping that the players we have together right now could be a group for maybe 10 years.”
For the 19-year-old Servania, who scored three goals in 17 appearances for Birmingham in his first professional season last year, the opportunity to represent the country is an exciting one.
“My mom is from Puerto Rico, her whole family, so we visit there every year,” he told Arnold. “Being able to represent this country is great for me personally because my mom is really proud of her hometown. Every time I step out there, it’s just a great feeling.”
The Dominican Republic also featured Championship and League One players in Tuesday’s clash with 2020 League One All-League Second Team selection Edison Azcona of Fort Lauderdale CF earning his international debut in the starting lineup. Sacramento Republic FC’s Rafael Diaz and Austin Bold FC’s AJ Francois were also included in the squad, with Francois coming on in the second half to make his national team debut.