Cunningham Keeping Options Open After Puerto Rico Islanders Opt For Late Start
Jamie Cunningham had been working hard since June to recover from an ACL and LCL injury and rejoin the Puerto Rico Islanders.
There’s been one small set back. Cunningham’s recovery is complete, his left knee recovered, but there are no Islanders – at least not for the first half of the NASL season. The club announced in December it will only participate in the second half this year because of a need to “reorganize operations.”
That leaves players like center back Cunningham, a Scottsdale native, and Phoenix native and forward Josh Hansen with a decision to make: Find a new team or don’t get paid playing soccer until August.
“I am keeping my options open at this point,” Cunningham said via e-mail. “I would like to have a team sealed down sooner than the 2nd half of NASL season. As a player you want to be playing year around, so I would like to be with a team before then.”
Cunningham has spent parts of the offseason working for a local corporation and preparing for life after soccer, but that time hasn’t come yet for him or his teammates who are now in a similar situation.
“Everyone on that team now needs a job and contract. So, with that being said, people will be exploring their options and talking to teams around the league and other leagues,” he said. “It was a great group of guys on that team, so it is a sad thought that it will be broken up in this fashion.”
It’s still hard for Cunningham to leave a team that gave him his start – something for which Cunningham said he would be forever grateful to the team, staff and ownership.
“Playing for the Islanders was great,” he said. “It has a great following and gave me an opportunity to grow as a player and do what I loved every day as a career.”
The Islanders have been one of minor league soccer’s most successful clubs, with a handful of CONCACAF Champions League triumphs and several players going on to play in MLS. Their stadium was renovated last year, causing the team to play most of their season at an alternate location. Political uncertainty in the U.S. territory also played a factor in the team not being able to play the first half of the season, as the government funds much of the team.