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Armas Missing World Cup Due To Injury But Still Savoring U.S. Team's Victory

By Gabrielle Paese

June 7, 2002
Copyright © 2002 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

If you subscribe to the Félix Trinidad Sr. school of thought, the only Puerto Rican on the U.S. soccer team really isn't Puerto Rican at all.

Chris Armas, who watched the United States' 3-2 upset victory over soccer powerhouse Portugal from his recliner in Chicago, was born in the Bronx, N.Y. to a Puerto Rican mom from Arecibo and a Cuban dad.

"Anyone who says we're not truly Puerto Rican is just pure being jealous," said Armas. "It doesn't matter if you were born in the U.S. For people to say they're not truly Puerto Rican is to deny their heritgae. If your heritage is Puerto Rican that's what you are."

Armas' political status is the least of his worries right now as he undergoes rehab to heal a knee injury (ACL and torn miniscus) he sustained in a freak accident during the United States' tuneup game against Uruguay last month. Armas, who calls Long Island home, had knee surgery two weeks ago and, despite missing his sport's most important event, says he still feels like he's part of the team.

"They left that up to me," said the U.S.'s top defensive midfielder of his decision not to accompany the team to Korea and Japan where the U.S. is not expected to make it past the first round. "I decided to stay here and start my rehab."

Like the rest of U.S. team soccer fans, Armas was up at 4 a.m. Chicago time to watch the U.S. team's upset.

"I couldn't sleep because I couldn't wait for the game to start," said Armas. "Then to watch them come out and score a goal, it was incredible. Portugal is a world soccer powerhouse. We were playing with the big boys and we took it to them. We were up 3-0 and I just couldn't believe it. Then I was just happy we were up 3-2. Even though I wasn't there I felt part of it still. Afterward, the guys called me from their cell phones. I talked to Cobi Jones, Brian McBride and Clint Mathis. I couldn't sleep after that."

Armas is thinking about the upcoming season with the MSL's Chicago Fires and also about getting back with the national team as soon as possible, even though the next World Cup is a long way off (2006 in Germany).

"I'm just going to take it slow and get back to playing first," said Armas, who debuted internationally with the Puerto Rican team in 1993 when then-Puerto Rico Soccer Federation president Dr. Roberto Monroig made an effort to put the island's soccer team on the CONCACAF (North American-Caribbean and Central American Confederation) map.

Armas' mother was born in Arecibo and his maternal grandmother still lives in Bayamon.

Armas played in five games before Monroig's efforts were foiled and the Adelphi University graduate reclaimed lost turf by debuting with the U.S. squad in 1998.

"Obviously it's in my plans to play in a World Cup, especially because I missed it this time," said Armas. "But we'll have to see what the future holds."

Right now, Armas is making the best of his sentence stateside, helping his wife Justine out with their 7-month-old son, Christopher.

Regarding his Puerto Rican heritage, Armas said not learning the Spanish language well has been his only disappointment.

"My parents both speak fluent Sapnish but they didn't speak it around us and they regret that," said Armas. "But I'm going to get tutored this year and try to improve a little bit."

Xenophobia it's not. call it the Dominican-ization of the Puerto Rico Winter League

Dominican Daniel Aquino, the new owner of the Puerto Rico Winter League's Mayaguez Indians, wouldn't let the word "xenophobia" pass his lips.

His comment: "That's the right word" for the chilly reception he has received along with fellow Dominican businessman Julio Hazim since the two were cleared earlier this week to purchase the Mayaguez Indians and the Santurce Crabbers, respectively.

On Monday the Puerto Rico Winter League agreed to let the two Dominicans buy two of the oldest and most successful baseball franchises. This despite the fact that both businessmen have holdings in the Dominican winter league and the Puerto Rico league's constitution expressly prohibited one owner in two leagues. Aquino also owns the Escogido Leones in the Dominican league.

P.R. Winter League president Enrique "Quique" Cruz said the two new owners were approved by Major League Baseball as well as by the Caribbean Baseball Confederation. He told reporters he was optimistic the two would serve as a catalyst for change in the ailing league, which has six teams.

Aquino exudes enthusiasm about the new challenge.

"We're going to put the fans back into baseball," he said.

A 25-game television contract, ESPN Sunday-night baseball style broadcasting, community outreach programs and up-to-the second websites are among his plans.

"We [the owners] met for the first time on Monday and we plan to meet again next Monday and continue meeting to exchange ideas," said Aquino on Wednesday. "We hope to maintain the trust that the league has deposited in us."

Puerto Rico is hosting the Caribbean World Series in January of 2003 in Carolina's new Roberto Clemente Stadium.


Gabrielle Paese is the Assistant Sports Editor at the San Juan Star. She is the most recent recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at

Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.

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