Posted on September 14, 2012
By Michael Lewis
HARRISON, N.J. — Bill Gaudette know where his bread is buttered and where that bread comes from.
Gaudette returned from international duty on Monday earlier than planned this week, certainly earning some points from New York Red Bulls coach Hans Backe.
The former St. John’s standout goalkeeper helped Puerto Rico win its first two games of the Caribbean Cup first round and flew back to the metropolitan area.
When Puerto Rico plays the second round in Guadeloupe from Oct. 20-24, Gaudette might not be available for international duty. The Red Bulls host Sporting Kansas City on Oct. 24 in what could be a key encounter that could settle the Eastern Conference champion or even a spot in the Major League Soccer playoffs.
There won’t be any club vs. country conflict for Gaudette.
“Obviously, New York’s my club,” he said after practice at Red Bull Arena on Thursday. “Hopefully, they won’t conflict. This is my job. This is who I play for. This is my No. 1 priroity right now. If they conflict, I have to stay here and play for New York, which is something that I am very willing and happy to do. Hopefully, they don’t, but that is part of the game. I am happy to play here. Any time I get to play in front of my fans at Red Bull Arena here, I am thrilled.”
Needless to say, Backe had to be thrilled to have Gaudette back in training camp. The Red Bulls start a stretch in which they will play three games in eight days, with a home game against the Columbus Crew at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
“The boss is happy about me getting a little more extra rest instead of playing those three games and then these three games,” Gaudette said. “Six games in 11 days would have been a bit much. I got back early and I am fresh and ready to go. Hopefully we will get maximum points this week.”
Gaudette backstopped the Puerto Ricans to a pair of wins in Port-au-Prince, Haiti — a 2-1 victory over Bermuda and a 9-0 triumph over Saint Martin, which qualified his team for the next round. Gaudette missed the 2-1 loss to Haiti that determined the Group 1 winner on Tuesday night (The Puerto Ricans will play against host Guadeloupe, Martinique and the Group 4 winner in October for a place in the Caribbean Cup final in December. The final will determine the four times that will advance to next summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup).
“It was interesting,” he said. “We got the results we needed to advance. We went to the next stage. That’s the most important any time you are in a competition. We were down in Haiti. The country is still devastated by everything. It was tough to witness that that. From a players’ point of view, we went down there and got two results. I got back here in time to make sure I am fresher this week. We’ve got a busy week here, three games in a week.
“We played good. International football is international football. It doesn’t matter who you’re going to play. It’s going to be a battle. Guys are playing for their country pride. It was crazy tackles and lots of craziness. But any time when you’re in international duty, the only thing that matters is the result. We were able to get two results early and get out of there quick.”
The wins might fade from Gaudette’s memory some day, but the images he saw were quite vivid. Many Haitians still live in tents, some 2 1/2 years after the January 2010 earthquake. The Puerto Rican team had to stay an hour outside of Port-au-Price due to safety reasons.
“It’s a very sad place still,” he said. “It is a place that is still devastated by the earthquake. They just had a hurricane a couple of weeks ago. It’s one of those places that you really can’t forget about. I wound up coming home with nothing in my bag, giving everything I had away just to the people around there to some of the young kids. But it’s tough to see that. It really makes you think and realize what you have when you go to a country like Haiti. You see what they have. You feel really fortunate to have what you have. You just got to look around and be grateful whatever you have.”
Photo: Bill Gaudette: “If they conflict, I have to stay here and play for New York, which is something that I am very willing and happy to do. Hopefully, they don’t, but that is part of the game.” Keith Furman/First Row Photos
Categories: Caribbean, Gold Cup, Jamaica
Tags: Bill Gaudette, Caribbean Cup, Hans Backe, Major League Soccer, New York Red Bulls