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Islanders Colin Clarke to be Named New Carolina RailHawks Coach Next Week

2011 December 1

Colin Clarke will be named head coach of the Carolina RailHawks next week

Colin Clarke, who has guided the Puerto Rico Islanders through 5 seasons, will not be returning to the team according to sources in Puerto Rico. Clarke has decided to take the vacant coaching job in Cary, North Carolina to lead the RailHawks for the 2012 season. The announcement will be made by the RailHawks early next week.

Clarke’s contract had expired after this past season and the ownership group of the Islanders could not come to agreement on renewing his coaching agreement with the team.

Neil Morris with Indy had reported in mid-November that Clarke was a leading candidate for the head coaching position for the Carolina RailHawks which was left vacant after previous coach Martin Rennie took the reins with the Vancouver Whitecaps of MLS. According to Morris, RailHawks president Curt Johnson has known Clarke since the late 1990s when he hired the former Northern Ireland player for his first coaching job with the USL’s Richmond Kickers, where Johnson was GM.

Clarke had increasingly come under fire this season by Islanders fans even though his team finished its second division season with a better record than 2010 when they won the USSF D2 Pro League Championship. This season the Islanders finished 2nd in the NASL standings with a 15-6-7 record and 52 points, just 2 off of league-leading Carolina. But Clarke’s team was hindered in their playoff drive as it came during a FIFA International break. Because of international duty the Islanders, who had more players called up for CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers than any other NASL team, were missing up to 7 players for their playoff run against 4th place Fort Lauderdale. The Strikers disposed of Puerto Rico winning both home and away games and advanced to the finals.

Some Islanders supporters were also unhappy with Clarke because he did not speak Spanish and felt there was a public relations problem with the Northern Ireland native. But Clarke’s record spoke for itself. After spending 13 years as a player with teams like Peterborough United, Tranmere Rovers, Bournemouth, Southampton, Queens Park Rangers and Portsmouth as well as making 38 appearances for Northern Ireland, he turned his attention to coaching.

The 49-year-old is the most accomplished and established coach in D2 soccer. He has spent time coaching the Richmond Kickers of USL and FC Dallas of MLS where he won the Western Conference in 2006 before moving to the Islanders in mid-season of 2007.  Clarke lead Puerto Rico, who had never finished better than 6th place in their first 4 seasons, to a 1st place finish in USL-1 for the 2008 season. In 2009 the team finished 3rd and made it to the semifinals of the playoffs. At the same time they won the Caribbean Football Union Club Championship (CFUCC)  and made a famous run in the CONCACAF Champions league where they were eliminated in a penalty kick shootout in the semifinals of the tournament.

In 2010 the Islanders struggled with the weight of CFUCC and CONCACAF Champions League play, and finished in the last playoff position of the USSF D-2 Pro League. Puerto Rico did have a win of note early in the CONCACAF Champions League group stage by defeating the LA Galaxy at Home Depot Center with a 4-1 win. Under Clarke’s guidance, he led his Islanders to a late season surge winning the 2010 USSF D2 Pro League championship against the Carolina RailHawks in post season play.

The Islanders are expected to name their replacement for Clarke next week.

23 Responses
  1. Bart permalink
    December 1, 2011

    Any word on who the new coach for the Islanders will be? It seems to be a troubling trend for the Islanders to lose a coach of this magnitude.

    In spite of not speaking Spanish, the team owners should recognize the talent that they just lost.

  2. rafijoepr permalink
    December 1, 2011

    The majority of Islanders fans will always be grateful for Colin’s years of service in Puerto Rico and wish him the best. The public relations problems you mention were more due to the fact that during the Colin years Hispanic players were easily dismissed or not considered for the squad. Until the arrival of Jonathan Faña, local or spanish speaking players were mostly absent or didn’t excel during his tenure. Obviously this was the result of him implementing his own style of play, bringing his players into the squad; some good, some average, while seemingly passing over local talent. This in turn, with a front office that at the time was basically non existent and wasn’t in touch with the local fanbase, resulted that even with the team’s many successes, crowds were getting smaller.

    We Islanders fans hope that with things turning around management wise, we can also get a new head coach that is more in touch with Puerto Rican fans, who is willing to take real chances on local talent, who implements a style that is more suited for the hispanic fan, and also continues the tradition set during Colin’s years of winning big. Some of the names that have already been mentioned for the job are Colin’s long time assistant coach Adrian Whitbread and current PR National Team coach, former Saprissa coach Jeaustin Campos. Let’s see what happens…

  3. leeka permalink
    December 1, 2011

    “Some Islanders supporters were also unhappy with Clarke because he did not speak Spanish” This is absurd… we know and speak English too, we are unhappy because he loose his magic with the team and the early elimination in Concachampions 2012, not because he didn’t speaks Spanish…lol…

  4. kape permalink
    December 2, 2011

    Seriously? Who told you that fans were unhappy because Clarke couldn’t speak Spanish? That’s ridiculous.

  5. yankiboy permalink
    December 2, 2011

    @leeka & kape: With all due respect, I’ve met Islanders fans who have told me, personally that they woould prefer to have a coach who speaks Spanish.

    The English issue has been one face mentioned to me–personally. It’s not just something that I have read online.

    I have been told that there is the belief by some that if the coach spoke Spanish that would have helped make him more popular with some of the fans, that they would be more enthusiastic about him or could relate better to him.

    Colin Clarke is the only head coach in the club’s short history that does not speak Spanish. I’ve been hearing complaints about Clarke not speaking Spanish since he got there.

    Victor Hugo Barros, Hugo Maradona, Jorge Alvial and “Profe” Toribio Rojas all spoke Spanish.

    Rafijoepr articulated some of the thoughts that some of the Clarke detractors and supporters have voiced before, and he did it brilliantly.

    I heard the same complaint from some when he was appointed to lead the Puerto Rican National team.

    The language facet of the cultural complaints that I have heard over the years regarding Colin Clarke. The player selection, the tactical style and the feeling believe by many unhappy with Clarke that he has somehow “delatinized” (for lack of a better word) the club all have been voiced to me, personally and in online forums.

    I have heard it directly from some inside the Puerto Rican soccer community.

    I have not only heard it in Puerto Rico I have also heard it outside of Puerto Rico, here in the States (not a political/status statement just a trying to clarify for some of the readers).

    I also heard it when Clarke was made DT of the national team.

    Someone actually made a comment to me back during the WCQ’s series with Honduras in 2008: “Where else in Latin America is there a DT that is leading a national team where the DT doesn’t speak Spanish???”

    I gave the person the same response that I give today when the issue was raised with me:

    “The thing the only thing that I am concerned about is that that the man or woman leading the team that I support can help the team achieve all that they can–and in this case–OVERACHIEVING (in my opinion) and that having a head coach that doesn’t speak the language is found in a lot of parts of the world, so why should it be a big issue for some in Puerto Rico? The work still gets done, so the rest is just marketing…I’m about the language of results…”

    I have no hesitation standing by the statement regarding language; I say that the language issue has been raised and that I am one of the people that have discussed this with Brian.

    Sorry with a post like the one above, where the content is so important to me, so that there can no doubt about identity. I meant to sign the above post that with my real name:

    Jay Long
    Puerto Rico Islanders supporter since April 2004
    Puerto Rican National teams supporter since September 2004

  6. Kristian Vazquez permalink
    December 2, 2011

    Great to see some updates around this. I’ll have to disagree with the whole ‘not speaking Spanish’ thing. Have never met anyone who has used that as an argument. Seems like a very superfluous thing to say. A considerable issue was the lack of Latino players but not Clarke’s lack of Spanish skills.

  7. yankiboy permalink
    December 2, 2011

    I want to be perfectly clear: I agree with Roafijoepr’s assessment that the percieved public reations problem was a combination of factors (as I addressed in my previous post).

    The language issue is just one of the facets to what I will refer to as the “the club has lost it’s latin flavor” argument. It wasn’t the overwhelming facet, but it was voiced to me as one.

    When PRI had coaches that spoke Spanish, it obviously was never voiced to me as an issue (because it wasn’t an issue). It was one minor piece in the “club should be more Latin/and or Puerto Rican” argument.

    I will agree with my good friend Kristian on the word “superfluous”.

    For several years now, I have the personal feeling that had Colin Clarke fielded a starting line up predominantly made up of Puerto Ricans and other Latinos and played what many fans considered to be “beautiful, attacking futbol with finesse” and not had the same level of on-field success–there would have still been people calling for his head but he wouldn’t have been as under the microscope that he was under with some; You would have thought that he lost more matches than he won. There often seemed to be a lot of what I considered to be “superluous” arguments being made against him or points being raised.

    It’s not for me to tell anyone else how to spend their money; If someone doesn’t want a product then it is not for me to tell them that they should be happy purchasing it. I just found a lot of the arguments against Clarke to be without merit.

    I fully accept any heat the Brian will get for the language point; It is a minor one that ties into the much LARGER cultural dynamic that Clarke had to deal with that the other previous non-Latino coaches never had to deal with.

    I said it and I’ll keep saying it: For a long time I have perceived the CULTURAL dynamic played a MAJOR part in the lack of satisfaction for some (key word) with Colin Clarke. Language being a minor factor, a minor facet of a much LARGER issue–the CULTURAL one.

    I wish that I had a freaking dollar for everytime someone told me or I read that they wanted him gone and the CULTURAL issue was at play because I would need an accountant to help me look for ways to protect all the money that I would have earned from the Stae of Maryland and the Internal Revenue Service.

    I apologize for the language issue having become a major point of contention regarding the public relations. I don’t apologize for stating what a good number of us who have followed Puerto Rico Islanders know which is the cultural dynamic played a MAJOR role in how some people viewed Colin Clarke.

    The cultural dynamic wasn’t the ONLY factor in the discontent but it played a big role with many–even if it was the tactics and preference for more Puerto Rican and Latino players to be featured or a more “hispanic” style of play.

    In my time following the sport, I’ve never seen a a coach working in the US second division who’s achieved so much success and been the brunt of so much superfluous criticism. Puerto Rico Islanders FC doesn’t play in La Liga or La Primera or Serie A. Sometimes I think that some of the supporters and critics forget that fact.

    Criticism goes along with the postion when someone decides to become involved in professional sports; The merits of said criticism are in the eyes and ears of the beholders. Ambition is a wonderful thing. Aspiration to greatness is admirable. Sometimes people need a reality check.

    Just one, concise, recent example:

    The above link is for the Islanders official facebook page. You don’t need to use a translator to get the general gist of a lot of the responses to the question of “What do you want to see next season?”

    Recurring response: “We want a new coach”.

    I hope that the next coach is everything that the some of Clarke detractors were praying for. I hope that he brings all of the things to the table that they have been demanding. The kind who restore the “hispanic/latino” flavor to the club, who’ll select a lot of players who aren’t only Puerto Rican but were actually born or raised in Puerto Rico or are latino. I hope that they utilize a style that like Barcelona or Boca Juniors or whatever other club. It would also be nice if the team still manages to win-dominating the leagues it plays in while dealing with the inevitable fixture congestion and national team conflicts. I hope that it still continues to find a way to beat far more talented and better financed teams that it has supposedly has “no business” even stepping on the same field with.

    I’ll light some candles and we’ll see how things play out…

    Thanks alot for your patience with my rant…

  8. Kristian Vazquez permalink
    December 2, 2011

    Wepa! Yanki, I had not seen your previous comment when I threw mine into the ring. I see what you’re saying and agree on most parts. Deep inside I just wonder if any coach will ever be good enough. Seems like there’s always something to complain about. Yes, I think he committed many many blunders and lost some crucial games because of his style – but still, he’s probably one of the best coaches USL/NASL has had in terms of results.

  9. Gerry Wittmann permalink
    December 2, 2011

    Except compared to the exceptionally high standards that the Islanders have achieved under Clarke the last few seasons, I hardly see how 2011 was a failure. The Islanders won CFU, and lost by an away goal to a Metapan club that advanced to the CONCACAF group semifinals alongside such teams as LA Galaxy (MLS champions), Monterrey (defending CONCACAF Champions), Seattle Sounders (3 time US Open Cup Champions), Toronto (Nutrilite Canadian Champions), Santos Laguna (in La Liguilla semifinals), Monarcas Morelia (in La Liguilla semifinals) and Pumas (2011 Mexican Apertura Champions). That’s pretty heavy company….and the Islanders scored the same number of goals as Metapan — but Metapan advanced b/c of an away goal to the group stage instead of the Islanders.

    Then you look at the NASL season and the Islanders almost caught the dominant RailHawks….missing out by 2 points despite more schedule congestion and national team callups. The Islanders earned a bye in the NASL playoffs but then lost to a Strikers side that finally played up to the potential of their talented roster.

    I can’t comment much on the language and cultural issues involved in Puerto Rican soccer but I do believe that Italian Fabio Capello had done pretty well with the English NT and Jose Mourinho could win with any team in any language.

    I do understand the desire of some Puerto Rican fans to have more local talent on the Islanders. But here’s the thing. No metropolitan area produces enough local talent to field a legitimate professional team — and even if they did, bigger clubs would come along to pick off the best talent. That’s no disrespect to the state of Puerto Rican soccer — it just is what it is. The level of play is so high now, even in the “minor leagues,” that a team couldn’t compete comprised entirely or even mostly of local players. And even if you could field a team of locals from a huge metropolitan area like Mexico City or Rio de Janiero, other clubs would come in and swoop up the best players the next season or two and they’d be very difficult to replace.

    I do think it’s a positive thing for attendance and community awareness for there to be a local player(s) on a “minor league’ club that fans can identify with. I do believe that BQ has had this argument before with Minnesota fans who wanted to see more local players on the Stars, and before that, the Thunder. Very very few communities could produce that talent, and none could keep it together long.

    Maybe it was time for Clarke to move on……but I do think the Islanders will find it difficult to maintain the level of success they’ve enjoyed under the General.

  10. December 3, 2011

    Very well said, Gerry. Thanks everyone for weighting in on the subject.

  11. OrangeDemon 12 permalink
    December 4, 2011

    lol we are very happy With Colin he was the best coach that the club has in the last 4 seasons 3 championship, in every season he play semifinals!

  12. Bart permalink
    December 4, 2011


    So the Puerto Rican fans are nothing more than a bunch of racist, prejudicial, ethnic cleansing soccer fans. I would not call this a “cultural issue”, I would call it what it was. Spain lost the quest for its world empire hundreds of years ago, and a lot of that reason was the same pompous egotistical superior attitudes that allowed that elite empire to fail as well.

    English, not Spanish, is the world’s language. It is what the international pilots have to be fluent in so that they can fly. Not French, German, Chinese or Spanish…..but English…..

    It is not without reason that the English were worse than the Serbs, Bosnians or Germans in their quest to rule the world. They were the most ruthless society in the world for several hundred years, and the US reaps the benefits of it. Ask the Irish, Welsh and Scots how well they have been treated over the last century.

    Braveheart says it all….. FREEEDOMMM!!!! and then off with his body parts…..

  13. yankiboy permalink
    December 5, 2011

    @Bart: Usually I enjoy your use of sarcasm and your use of irony and hyperbole.

    But this is clearly NOT one of those times.

  14. December 5, 2011

    I whole heartedly agree Yanki. I think this is a bit beyond fanning the flames Bart and its pretty tasteless.

  15. yankiboy permalink
    December 5, 2011

    @Bart: I’m all for honest takes and I definitely was hoping for some discussion of what I referred to as the “cultural issue” in an English language forum.

    Over the years, it has discussed it a lot on the main Islanders supporters website and on some others such as and

    As I have tried to explain when the opportunity has arisen on the IMS NASL podcast–any other opportunity that becomes available–is that the Puerto Rican marketplace is an incredibly different one due to the distinct, cutural aspects that can’t be compared to any other place in the NASL or the USL or MLS; ANybody who takes accepts the postion of Head Coach, General Manager or some other front office position with Puerto Rico Islanders FC or the FPF (football fedeation) who has not previously lived in Puerto Rico is going to have an even more difficult challenge navegating their duties.

    As I stated when we discussed the hiring of Mr. Euardo “Eddie” Carvacho as the manager of Puerto Rico Islanders FC–Puerto Rico is not Columbus and it’s not Dallas. It’s not Chile. He was enormously successful in the two previously mentioned MLS marketplaces. While he has only publicly made postive statements about his time in Puerto Rico, and I have never personally contacted him directly to see if he would like to publicly or even privately discuss why he left so quickly after he was hired–all of my intel indicates that the adjustment to the position in that particualr marketplace (in at least a couple different facets) to be far more difficult than he had anticipated.

    The gentleman is very talented and highly respected. He knows marketing. He knows futbol. He’s bilingual. He was gone in less than five months.

    I adore Puerto Rico and even when I disagree with some or even many of the brothers and sisters who support the club or the national team programs, I’m all for discussion–maybe we will just agree to disagree (which happens more often than not lately).

    I know that I’m the guy on the podcast who makes the “edgy” comments and that I use a lot of humor and yes sometime sarcasm. I also realize that you play a very important role here, Bart and I have always appreciated your participation.

    I just found your comments to be over the top. I’m all for discussion. I’m just not for lobbing Molotov Cocktails or flamethrowing. Not even when trying to provoke more discussion.

    You are clearly entitled to your take–just like everybody else. The ethnic cleansing and accusation of racism–I personaly take those things incredibly seriously. Along with empire lines–even if you finished it up with a Braveheart reference to make it a a lighter offering were simply too much for me to not respond to. Once you start throwing those terms around so losely, even jesting–unless the forum is greared to comedy or satire–things usually go to hell in a handbasket pretty quickly.

    I don’t EVER want to be invloved with anything that would ever be regrarded as being disrespectful to Puerto Rico or its people and that was NEVER my intention.

    So, no–let it be clear, your take is NOT my take; They are different. Let there be no doubts in anyone’s minds about that.

  16. Bart permalink
    December 5, 2011

    @ yankiboy

    This forum is not well served by my sarcastic post or even the tenor of the “cultural” discussion.

    Puerto Rico is US territory, and as such receives the same (if not more) US dollar subsidies as most of the actual States. Civil rights aside, the thought that one person may be better than another based upon language abilities is just plain wrong.

    Even though the majority of the island speaks that latin based language we know as Spanish, English is the official language and deserves the same dignity as those less fortunate who don’t speak Espanol.

    Sometimes, there is a fine line between fanning the flames and stoking additional discussion, and I want to apologize if the previous post offended.

    The Puerto Rico people, as a majority, are good folks. They are hard working, industrious, and passionate about their island and their way of life. That is no different than the majority of US citizens, who are the same. Focusing on the small percentage that have lost their way is never the productive way of expending energy.

  17. Tom permalink
    December 5, 2011

    I might be mistaken, but unlike the US which has no offical language, Puerto Rico officially recognizes both English and Spanish as its official languages with English being the second language taught in schools.

  18. Bart permalink
    December 5, 2011


    Actually, the official language in the US is English. Our first President, George Washington, broke the tie between English or German, voting for English as the official language.

  19. Tom permalink
    December 5, 2011

    @Bart – you crack me up. Nice try though. Since I believe you have a legal background (when your wife isn’t beating you) please provide one statue, federal law, amendment, etc… that legally confirms that English is the “official” language of the US. De Facto – yes, some would believe so, official – ???

  20. Tom permalink
    December 5, 2011

    I meant “statute” not statue…..

  21. cudafan permalink
    December 5, 2011

    I agrre with Gerry about the local players being at times not good enough at this level and clubs MUST be a success for the fans as we all know, with setting an example without using Mexico City we at Barracuda FC had to recruit Jamacians, St Lucians, Kittians and Dominicans to be competitive.
    We played the Islander as our very !st pro game and the team he put together was very good so from one small Island man to another the NASL has got a great coach, the loss is on PRI but let us all wait and see what happens next regards a coach …….. football is a world business and the language thing is rubbish just look at Trappatoni or Cappello.

  22. Bart permalink
    December 5, 2011


    You are correct, there is no US constitutional requirement that English is the official language. However, before the Constitution there was a vote in the original Continental congress which created a tie. Washington broke the tie. I do not believe this ever carried over post Declaration of Independence/Constitution signing.

  23. yankiboy permalink
    December 5, 2011

    @Bart: Like I said before, I really appreciate what you bring to the website. I just had to respond. Now that I did, for me, I hope the apology is accepted and we can just move on.

    I’m fully willing to take all of the blame for the direction that the conversation went in. It’s a very delicate subject and I injected it into the conversation.

    @cudafan: Thanks, as always for sharing some information about Barracuda FC.

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