Greyhounds Tapped for Puerto Rico’s National Team

Feb 06, 2019

As children in Puerto Rico, friends Juan O’Neill ’22 and Nicolas Cardona ‘2 played soccer on opposing teams and later as teammates for the Puerto Rico Under-20 National Team. When it came time to pick a college, friends from home told them about Assumption, and both decided to join the tight-knit community of Puerto Rican Greyhounds. Not only are they competing throughout the Northeast-10 Conference, but also at home as members of the Puerto Rico National Team.

The Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) League of Nations began its inaugural season in fall 2018. Puerto Rico is one of 34 qualifying teams that comprise the league. O’Neill, a midfielder for the Greyhounds, and Cardona, a defender, were called to represent Puerto Rico alongside professional, amateur, and other collegiate athletes.

O’Neill was named a starter in Puerto Rico’s first match on September 9 versus Saint Kitts and Nevis. Despite the 1-0 loss, O’Neill is thrilled to have represented his nation’s team as a center midfielder. “It was an incredible honor to be named a starter for the team, and to actually play and represent Puerto Rico at an international competition,” said O’Neill. “It was certainly an experience I will never forget. It has brought me one step closer to my goal, which is to play professionally.”

Christopher Payne, Assumption’s Head Men’s Soccer coach and operations coordinator, said he was not surprised O’Neill and Cardona were called to the competition. “Both players have been a part of their youth national programs growing up, as well as being part of training camps over the past few years, so the Federation in Puerto Rico has been aware of their ability levels,” he said.

Payne is also not surprised that the young men have been able to balance their time between schoolwork and Assumption team commitments. “They are both fantastic guys to work with and have come into the school and the program and been leaders in a very positive way from the beginning of preseason,” he added. “They are both very mature and not your average freshmen coming out of high school into a new environment. Their involvement in the competition is a great honor for them, and as a program we are very proud to have players who are representing their nation on that level. It is the highest honor for a soccer player, and we are very happy for them to get the opportunity.”

Traveling between Worcester and throughout the Caribbean this past fall, O’Neill and Cardona are looking forward to future opportunities to compete on the global stage. For O’Neill, their participation reaffirms his dream. “It means that all the hard work we put in for years is paying off,” he said.

As featured in the winter 2019 issue of the Assumption Magazine