To go along with Lucky Mkosana’s call up to the Zimbabwe National Team, two more of Penn FC’s players have been called up ahead of the start of the qualifying for the 2019-2020 CONCACAF Nations League. Forward Aaron Dennis received his call up for the US Virgin Islands National team while midfielder Jorge Rivera was selected for the Puerto Rico National Team.
The call up for Aaron Dennis was a bit of a surprise as he is listed on the team’s website as growing up in New York. However, the team did clarify that Dennis was born on the US Virgin Islands and he is therefore eligible for selection for the national team. It’s his first international call up.
The small US Territory (with a population of about 100,000) will have a tough start to the qualifying as they go up against Canada on September 9th. The US VI squad will be the heavy underdogs for this matchup as Canada’s current FIFA ranking is 79th while the US VI are currently at 199th. The matchup will also be taking place in Florida as the US VI do not have an international stadium on the islands.
Aaron Dennis has seen some improved play of late and he just scored his second goal of the season during Penn FC’s victory over Ottawa Fury FC. He has certainly become an offensive threat for Penn FC and both of his goals have been absolute rockets. In an interesting twist, one of the available goalkeepers for the Canadian National Team is Maxime Crepeau, the goalkeeper that he beat to score his goal against Ottawa.
Congratulations to forward @Aaron11Dennis on his call-up to the @usvirginislands National Team! Good luck over the next couple weeks! We can't wait to have you back for The Homestretch!— Penn FC (@PennFCOfficial) August 29, 2018
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Jorge Rivera is a little more familiar with international duty as he could potentially earn his 12th cap with Puerto Rico after making his debut back in 2015. He’s also been credited with one goal in international play, scored against Anguilla in 2016. He’ll be joined by a few familiar USL faces on the squad as Cody Laurendi of the OKC Energy and Matthew Sanchez of Rio Grande Valley FC have been called up as well.
Puerto Rico also has a tough challenge ahead of them as they travel to Basseterre to face Saint Kitts and Nevis on September 9th. Puerto Rico is the slight underdog for this matchup as their FIFA ranking sits at 173rd while Saint Kitts and Nevis are at 135th. But a win away would go a long way towards boosting Puerto Rico’s chances to qualify for a higher pot in the nations league or even the 2019 Gold Cup.
Rivera hasn’t been able to find many minutes with Penn FC as the season goes on and several players appear to move ahead of him on the depth chart. His best appearance was undoubtably his two goal performance against the Richmond Kickers in the US Open Cup. He has mostly been used as a late game sub to try and make some quick runs against opposing players on tired legs.
Congratulations to Midfielder @RiveraJorge10 on his call-up to the Puerto Rican National Team! Good luck over the next couple weeks! We can't wait to have you back for The Homestretch!— Penn FC (@PennFCOfficial) August 30, 2018
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Both of these players could be in line for additional call ups in the future if they play well here in September. This is just the qualifying for the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League. The tournament itself isn’t expected to begin until September of 2019 and the Championship for the tournament won’t occur until March of 2020.
Since the players are only being called away for one match at this time, Penn FC won’t have to do without them for too long. Jorge Rivera is expected to miss the upcoming matches against Bethlehem as well as ATL UTD 2 as he leaves for international duty on September 2nd. Aaron Dennis isn’t expected to leave until the 3rd, so he will be available for the Bethlehem match. He will miss the ATL UTD 2 match but should be back in time for Penn FC’s match against Indy Eleven on September 12th.