Gold Cup: Group Stage & Quarterfinal Cupdate

The split-second before Wonderful. (image: theoriginalwinger.com)

The split-second before Wonderful. (image: theoriginalwinger.com)

OTF’s Austin Fido takes a look at who’s hot (USMNT) and who’s not (pretty much everyone else) coming out of the Gold Cup group matches…

The group stage is done, and some teams (Canada) deservedly forgotten. But there were a few moments, and players, worth remembering in Gold Cup’s opening phase. Before the tournament rolls into the knockout rounds, here’s a quick survey of what we got from the eleven best teams in CONCACAF, and some Canadians.

GROUP A

CANADA

image: en.wikipedia.org

image: en.wikipedia.org

7/7 – Canada 0 – 1 Martinique

7/11 – Mexico 2 – 0 Canada

7/14 – Panama 0 – 0 Canada

4th in Group A: Eliminated.

Consider for a moment what would happen if USMNT or El Tri turned up for the only competitive fixtures of their calendar year with a lame-duck coach. (Say what? Chepo is limping and quacking? Zing!)

Next, consider the likely furore if either of those teams followed a tournament-opening loss by allowing a senior player to leave the squad, just after losing two starters to illness. 

Injury followed by insult was the Reds’ Gold Cup. The abject denouement to nine months of feckless dithering by the Canadian Soccer Association. 

The team got a point, so this meandering sleepwalk to nowhere wasn’t literally pointless. Just figuratively so.

One to Watch: Marcus Haber  

Marcus Haber closes his eyes and dreams of better days. (photo: sportingnews.com)

Marcus Haber closes his eyes and dreams of better days. (photo: sportingnews.com)

Who doesn’t like a strong, reasonably quick, target forward? Stevenage FC of England’s League One is who. Haber is on the outs at his club. He’s not a prolific scorer, but he’s still young (24). Once Canada rekindles interest in preparing for international competitions, he could be a troubling proposition for CONCACAF defenses.

MARTINIQUE

image: en.wikipedia.org

image: en.wikipedia.org

7/7 – Canada 0 – 1 Martinique

7/11 – Panama 1 – 0 Martinique

7/14 – Martinique 1 – 3 Mexico

3rd in Group A: Eliminated.

Against the dismal Canadians, Fabrice Reuperné’s last-minute winner secured three points for a team playing positive, lively, occasionally delightful, football. The style persisted throughout the group stages. Sadly, the results did not. Les Matinino scared the hell out of Panama, and weren’t cowed by Mexico, but lost both games.

Ultimately, three points wasn’t enough for a quarterfinal spot. Instead, Martinique’s parting gift to the tournament was Cuba’s thrilling pursuit of the 4-0 win required to pip Les Matinino to the knockout rounds. 

One to Watch: Kevin Parsemain

photo: bleacherreport.com

Parsemain prudently avoids treading on a mole (photo: bleacherreport.com)

Were he a better finisher, Martinique would be in the quarterfinals. Nonetheless, Parsemain was the primary attacking threat for Les Matinino. Happy to shoot with either foot, also capable of creating chances for his teammates, he is an impressive advertisement for the standard of football in Martinique Championnat National.

MEXICO

image: en.wikipedia.org

image: en.wikipedia.org

7/7 – Mexico 1 – 2 Panama

7/11 – Mexico 2 – 0 Canada

7/14 – Martinique 1 – 3 Mexico

2nd in Group A: Quarterfinal vs. Trinidad & Tobago (7/20)

USMNT’s tragic 2011 Gold Cup could be about to repeat itself as farce for El Tri.

Two years ago, Bob Bradley took the Yanks into a Gold Cup group comprising Canada, Panama, and one of those French islands that only gets to compete in CONCACAF tournaments. USMNT lost to Panama, recovered sufficiently to make a run to the final, only to be slapped down by Mexico. The 4-2 loss to El Tri was Bradley’s last as USMNT’s head coach. 

His counterpart that day was Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre, who finished his first tournament as Mexico’s head coach with six wins out of six and a trophy. But in 2013, it is Chepo whose team is hobbling out of the group with wounds inflicted by Panama. And it is Chepo who may find a run to the final is not sufficient for him to keep his job.

Roster Changes:

In – José Maria Cardenas

Out – Darvin Chavez

The injured Chavez didn’t play; his replacement probably won’t either.

One to Watch: Whoever plays right back

Israel Jiminez lashes out. (photo: sports.terra.com)

Israel Jiminez lashes out. (photo: sports.terra.com)

Alberto Quintero owned El Tri’s right flank during Panama’s 2-1 group stage victory. We haven’t seen Israel Jimenez since. His replacement is Miguel Layun. However, Layun’s shortcomings were exposed by Martinique: he incurred a penalty to let Les Matinino back into the match. 

Assuming both teams have their acts together for the next round, Mexico will meet Panama again in the semifinals. Someone will need to do a better job of containing Quintero.

PANAMA

image: en.wikipedia.org

image: en.wikipedia.org

7/7 – Mexico 1 – 2 Panama

7/11 – Panama 1 – 0 Martinique

7/14 – Panama 0 – 0 Canada

1st in Group A: Quarterfinal vs. Cuba (7/20)

We’ve seen three Panamas so far: relentless against Mexico, hesitant facing Martinique, lackluster when exposed to Canada’s stifling miasma of indifference. 

Los Canaleros need to rediscover their first-match magic if they are to handle Mexico in the semi-finals, assuming the intervening round holds no surprises.

But we haven’t seen them really play well since the 70-minute mark of the win over El Tri, when the Panamanians decided to throw their energy into an elaborate time-wasting routine. It won the match, but it might have cost them their mojo. 

Roster Changes: None.

One to Watch: Roberto Chen

Roberto Chen demonstrates the enduring power of the number 23. (photo: ocregister.com)

Roberto Chen demonstrates the enduring power of the number 23. (photo: ocregister.com)

Apparently, he’s been on Seattle Sounders’ radar since they ran into him in CONCACAF Champions’ League in 2011. Now allegedly deciding between MLS and Liga MX, the 19-year-old defender is going places.

GROUP B

El Salvador

image: en.wikipedia.org

image: en.wikipedia.org

7/8 – El Salvador 2 – 2 Trinidad & Tobago

7/12 – Honduras 1 – 0 El Salvador

7/15 – El Salvador 1 – 0 Haiti

3rd in Group B: Quarterfinal vs. USMNT (7/21)

The Salvadorans tottered out of the group stage courtesy of a delusional penalty call in a match they were watching slip away. Again.

They should have beaten Trinidad in their opening game, but didn’t. Worth a point against Honduras, they got none. Finally, they were on course for a draw with Haiti and an early exit from the tournament. Until the assistant referee intervened.

The linesman thought he saw Jean Alexandre foul Victor Turcios in the box. Understandable: there was some tussling. But there was no penalty. The referee, who was closer to the play and had already signaled a goal kick, might have second-guessed himself out of international competitions.

Not that it matters to the Salvadorans. They were reliably entertaining throughout the group stage. Qualification for the knockout rounds is apt compensation. 

Roster Changes: None.

One to Watch: Rodolfo Zelaya

Trinidad's Daneil Cyrus enjoys a front row seat at the Zelaya show. (photo: foxsportsla.com)

Trinidad’s Daneil Cyrus enjoys a front row seat at the Zelaya show. (photo: foxsportsla.com)

He scored all El Salvador’s goals in the group stage. Granted, that’s only three. Still, it is testament to Zelaya’s role as the attacking force in this squad. Watching him play is one of the more consistent pleasures of this Gold Cup.

HAITI

image: en.wikipedia.org

image: en.wikipedia.org

7/8 – Haiti 0 – 2 Honduras

7/12 – Trinidad & Tobago 0 – 2 Haiti

7/15 – El Salvador 1 – 0 Haiti

4th in Group B: Eliminated.

Les Grenadiers did not deserve to be ousted from the tournament by an assistant referee’s hallucination. An apology is due:

One to Watch: Jeff Louis

We too are incredulous, Jeff. (photo: stamfordadvocate.com)

We too are incredulous, Jeff. (photo: stamfordadvocate.com)

A surging, inventive midfielder who won many admirers over the course of Haiti’s too-brief illumination of the tournament. Louis is under contract with AS Nancy, currently in France’s Ligue 2, until the eve of the next Gold Cup. 

HONDURAS

image: en.wikipedia.org

image: en.wikipedia.org

7/8 – Haiti 0 – 2 Honduras

7/12 – Honduras 1 – 0 El Salvador

7/15 – Honduras 0 – 2 Trinidad & Tobago

1st in Group B: Quarterfinal vs. Costa Rica (7/21)

Los Catrachos proved good enough to win Group B — just. They beat Haiti 2-0 in one of those games where the best team lost. It took a stoppage time goal for them to get past El Salvador. Sure, they weren’t really trying against Trinidad, but losing didn’t help counter the perception that Los Catrachos are the weakest of the Hex teams in this tournament.

The quarterfinal against Costa Rica is the chance to reboot an unconvincing Gold Cup campaign. Despite struggling against Los Ticos recently, there is cause for optimism: the last time Honduras beat Costa Rica was the 2011 Gold Cup quarterfinal.

Roster Changes:

In – Erick Norales

Out – Johnny Palacios

One center back replaces another.

One to Watch: Rony Martinez

Rony Martinez finds wings at Red Bull Arena. (photo: newstimes.com)

Rony Martinez finds wings at Red Bull Arena. (photo: newstimes.com)

Martinez was the leading scorer in this year’s Honduran Liga Nacional Clausura. He scored his first goal for his country in the 4th minute of Los Catrachos’ opening match against Haiti. It was a special strike. Now he needs to prove it was no fluke. 

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO

image: socawarriors.net

image: socawarriors.net

7/8 – El Salvador 2 – 2 Trinidad & Tobago

7/12 – Trinidad & Tobago 0 – 2 Haiti

7/15 – Honduras 0 – 2 Trinidad & Tobago

2nd in Group B: Quarterfinal vs. Mexico (7/20)

Is there a luckier team in the quarterfinals than the Soca Warriors? Twice second-best, they went into their last match of the group stage needing to win by two goals. Los Catrachos graciously made that possible by sending out a reserve team, conveniently reduced to ten men before half-time.

Still, getting out of the group is an encouraging achievement for a program on the slide since the 2006 World Cup. But it will take another improbable series of events to get past Mexico in the quarterfinals.

Roster Changes:

In – Kevan George

Out – Khalil Hyland

Hyland returns to his club per a pre-tournament agreement. He leaves a gap in central midfield which is unlikely to be filled by the arriving George.

One to Watch: Joevin Jones

Joevin Jones makes some new friends. (photo: uk.eurosport.yahoo.com)

Joevin Jones makes some new friends. (photo: uk.eurosport.yahoo.com)

If the young left back can make some hay against Mexico’s suspect right flank defense, he may finally get the MLS transfer for which he seems to audition annually.

GROUP C

BELIZE

image: en.wikipedia.org

image: en.wikipedia.org

7/9 – Belize 1 – 6 USMNT

7/13 – Costa Rica 1 – 0 Belize

7/16 – Cuba 4 – 0 Belize

4th in Group C: Eliminated.

Three games lost. Eleven goals conceded. Gold Cup did not go well for Belize.

Scoring a goal against USMNT was the team’s lonely highlight. Losing by just one goal to Costa Rica, a frustrating glimpse of  a level of play they simply couldn’t sustain over three matches. 

Better luck next time, guys.

One to Watch: Woodrow West

Woodrow West: contemplative. (photo: uk.eurosport.yahoo.com)

Woodrow West: contemplative. (photo: uk.eurosport.yahoo.com)

It was thoughtful of head coach Ian Mork to let ‘keeper Woodrow West have his moment in front of the scouts who attend these tournaments.

He kept the match against Costa Rica within reach. Things got out of hand against Cuba. But overall, he looked no worse conceding five goals over two matches than Shane Orio (one of just two professionals in the Belize squad) did allowing six from USMNT. 

COSTA RICA

image: en.wikipedia.org

image: en.wikipedia.org

7/9 – Costa Rica 3 – 0 Cuba

7/13 – Costa Rica 1 – 0 Belize

7/16 – USMNT 1 – 0 Costa Rica

2nd in Group B: Quarterfinal vs. Honduras (7/21)

Los Ticos haven’t looked right in this tournament. They made thrashing Cuba look laborious. The win over Belize was even worse. In their group stage finale, they contained USMNT for a while, but didn’t look likely to win. 

Perhaps they are playing possum. Maybe, after Copa Centroamericana and the Hex, it’s tournament-fatigue. Or squad rotation has hurt the rhythm of the team. Whatever the reason, it’s time to show up, or ship out.

Roster Changes: None

One to Watch: Rodney Wallace

Is he back in favor? (photo: deseretnews.com)

Is he back in favor? (photo: deseretnews.com)

He hasn’t historically been a favorite of head coach Jorge Luis Pinto. But two starts in three group games shows Pinto is exploring whether he can get the same performance out of Wallace as Caleb Porter. Simply being selected for another match is a step in the right direction. The direction being Brazil.

CUBA

image: en.wikipedia.org

image: en.wikipedia.org

7/9 – Costa Rica 3 – 0 Cuba

7/13 – USMNT 4 – 1 Cuba

7/16 – Cuba 4 – 0 Belize

3rd in Group C: Quarterfinal vs. Panama (7/20)

Los Leones del Caribe went into their final group stage match needing a win by four goals to qualify for the quarterfinals. This seemed unlikely. Cuba had scored once in the preceding two games, Belize had conceded just one goal to Costa Rica.

Thankfully, unlikely scenarios make for great sport. Cuba’s dogged, suddenly frantic, pursuit of four goals was a highlight of the group stage. Los Leones are perhaps the least expected of the quarterfinalists. But, despite the fact they cost Martinique a place in the knockout rounds, they are surely the most welcome.

Roster Changes: None.

One to Watch: Ariel Martinez

Ariel Martinez: the pride of Cuba's Lions. (photo: taipeitimes.com)

Ariel Martinez: pride of Cuba’s Lions. (photo: taipeitimes.com)

As proved against USMNT, he can mix it with the better players in the region. As he revealed against Belize, he’s a right winger with a good left foot. Panama’s back line will be on alert.

UNITED STATES

image: en.wikipedia.org

image: en.wikipedia.org

7/9 – Belize 1 – 6 USMNT

7/13 – USMNT 4 – 1 Cuba

7/16 – USMNT 1 – 0 Costa Rica

1st in Group C: Quarterfinal vs. El Salvador (7/21)

USMNT is the favorite to win Gold Cup. The top-scoring team in the tournament — 11 goals in three games — is also the only side to win all its group matches. 

Sure, the Yanks can be beaten. But they should be expected to win. Such is the privilege and the burden of playing the best soccer in the group stage.

Roster Changes:

In – Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Alan Gordon, Eddie Johnson

Out – Corey Ashe, Herculez Gomez, Jack McInerney, Oguchi Onweyu

Some familiar faces from the Hex, and Alan Gordon. His selection is a bit of a surprise, and therefore the most interesting call-up of the bunch.

One to Watch: Alan Gordon

Surprised me too, bro. (photo: bigstory.ap.org)

Surprised me too, bro. (photo: bigstory.ap.org)

Tactical telegram for CONCACAF: Klinsi just called up a big man who pairs well with Chris Wondolowski.

OTF’s Austin Fido chats Gold Cup and other things @canetop. Follow him.

4 thoughts on “Gold Cup: Group Stage & Quarterfinal Cupdate

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  2. Pingback: CONCACAF 2015 U-20 Championship: Group B Round 1 & 2 Round-Up | OTF Soccer

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