As MLS hit their international intermission, the CONCACAF teams were readying their First Act of the Gold Cup. Three groups consisting of twelve teams begun battle, and as the dust settles from the Group Stage, we take a step back and look at what’s happened so far.
In Group A, Costa Rica easily handled their opponents en route to 7 points from a possible 9. They did so behind a stout defense, only allowing 1 goal in 3 matches. Their biggest victory was a 3-0 thrashing of French Guiana, who lost all three of their games, allowing a whopping 10 goals. Costa Rica will play Panama in the first quarterfinal matchup.
Group B was won in similar fashion, with the United States grabbing 7 out of 9 points possible. The Yanks stumbled out of the gates, drawing to Panama, but ended on the right foot, beating Nicaragua 3-0. The big takeaway from the US winning their group is that they avoid having to face Costa Rica in the quarterfinal stage.
Mexico did what Mexico does, and took Group C as most critics anticipated they would. Mexico faced the toughest test from Jamaica, who tried parking the bus, but weren’t able to muster a single attempt on goal. They now move on to face Honduras in the next stage.
Canada took second place in Group A, scratching out a victory against French Guiana while also earning two draws. They will play Jamaica in the quarterfinals, who finished second in Group C. The third place team in that division, El Salvador, were the last team to advance, and they will take on the United States in the quarterfinals stage. The US should be heavily favored in that contest.
Jordan Morris, USMNT gain confidence and momentum
Jordan Morris entered the United States match against Martinique with a total of 2 goals in 17 USMNT appearances. Needless to say, his international career hadn’t gotten off to the hot start his Sounders career had. That all changed Thursday night, however. Morris bagged two goals, including the game-winner against Martinique:
This performance had to calm his nerves, and he was given most of the night off in the following match against Nicaragua. The late winner against Martinique also helped the United States build confidence, and they carried it into their group finale against Nicaragua, which they won handily, 3-0.
Mexico still reign supreme
Mexico have won three of the last four Gold Cup’s, and they’re well on their way to having a shot at winning four out of five. They took care of business in Group C, and will face off against a poor Honduras in the quarterfinals. Until someone steps up and gives El Tri a real run for their money, it’s hard to bet against them.
Nicaragua’s first ever Gold Cup goal
Nicaragua have only ever qualified for the Gold Cup once before, and that was 8 years ago. At this point, its baby steps for their national team. They took a big one, however, in scoring their first ever Gold Cup goal against Panama on, and boy, was it a beauty. Carlos Chavarria found a bit of space in front of the box, and belted a shot into the upper left corner. You can check it out here:
Martinique’s temporary equalizer vs. USMNT
What a brief moment of ecstasy for Martinique. They had already defeated Nicaragua, and it very well looked like they might steal a point from the United States after this, well, lets just say “unconventional” goal:
The 2-2 score would only stand for a minute, as the US would grab back the lead and hold on to win 3-2. However, it was a good showing for Martinique, and here’s hoping they’re back again in a few years.
What to Watch For
What do the recent roster moves by the USMNT mean for the rest of the tournament?
Just today, the USMNT announced that some major changes will be happening at the top of their team sheet. Tim Howard, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, and Clint Dempsey have all been added to the Gold Cup roster.
This means a few things. For one, the pressure is off players like Dom Dwyer and Kellyn Acosta to make things happen. Secondly, it shows a bit of doubt in the mind of Bruce Arena. After an unconvincing draw with Panama and a narrow victory over Martinique, Arena is seemingly going with his big guns to get a tournament victory in before a return to World Cup Qualifying. Momentum moving into the fall months will be vital to USA’s chances of making the World Cup, so Arena won’t be taking any chances of a quick exit in the bracket stage of the Gold Cup.
And of course, Fire fans will be wondering what kind of role Dax McCarty will play in the knockout rounds (if any). For more on that, check out Sean’s breakdown from Saturday.
Can Costa Rica pull off the upset?
In the last 16 years and 8 CONCACAF Gold Cup tournaments, there have been two victors: Mexico and United States. But there’s a nation that might have something to say about that. Costa Rica have been hanging around the top of CONCACAF lately; in fact, they’re in position to qualify for the World Cup, currently sitting second between Mexico and the US in the qualifying table.
After finishing at the top of Group A in this years Gold Cup, Costa Rica have their sights set on much more than a quarterfinals exit. If they can navigate their way to the finals, it would be their first time since 2002, when they lost to the United States (insert humble brag here). If they make it to the finals and find a way to win, it will be the first time that US/Mexico haven’t won since Canada hoisted the trophy in 2000.
Will Mexico falter down the stretch?
Mexico’s national team recently earned a fourth place finish at the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia. This would lead most people to assume they might have tired legs towards the end of the Gold Cup. However, that won’t be the case. Luis Reyes is the only Mexican player on their Gold Cup roster that was also part of the squad that traveled to Moscow.
But that doesn’t mean all is well for Mexico. El Tri’s Confederations Cup roster had a total of 1,132 international caps, or 49.22 per player. In comparison, their Gold Cup team sheet only has 215 international caps, or an average of 9.15 per player. There is a good possibility the youth and inexperience leads to a quarter or semifinals exit for Mexico.
So that’s it for the Group Stage of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. As the tournament continues on, we’ll keep you up to date with analysis and updates.