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Gold Cup

2011 Concacaf Gold Cup Group Stage Wrap-up


The 2011 Concacaf Gold Cup group stage has come to and end.  The matchups for the quarterfinals are set and we are poised for an interesting knockout round, which may be more up in the air than usual.  Two teams in particular have really risen their play and are looking to tip the scales on the traditional powers.  Panama is one, certainly a team on the upswing, Jamaica being the other.  The Reggae Boyz joined Mexico in being the only two teams to get maximum points in the group stage.

There weren’t too many surprises in regards to the final eight teams, with the exception of El Salvador.  However, the way the group standings ultimately played out did feature an unexpected element … Group C … no United States at the top.  All in all, though much turned out as predicted, there was still plenty of excitement (as well as blowouts) and intrigue hung around until the final day of group play.

Before we head on to the knockout stages … let’s take a brief look at what got us to this point.

Group A

Mexico and Costa Rica both finished first and second as was expected, while El Salvador earned a semi – surprise third place advancement.  Cuba came in with little to no expectations and in addition to being one of the tourney’s two whipping posts, again were unable to return home with the same amount of players as entering.

Mexico came into the tournament as the favorite, (or co – favorite with the U.S.) depending on who you were talking with.  They did absolutely nothing to dispel this notion and everything to enhance it.   If their were any doubts as to who the favorites are, they should be gone by now.  While the U.S. struggled compared to normal performances in the group, Mexico ran through their opposition like a hot knife through butter.  Not only does Mexico feature the most talented squad in the Gold Cup, they won convincingly even against Costa Rica.  After thrashing both El Salvador and Cuba 5 – 0, El Tri put on a clinic against Costa Rica, punishing the Ticos 4 – 1.  With a plus 13 goal differential, 9 points and only one goal conceded in three matches, Mexico is downright scary.

Costa Rica finished in 2nd place with 4 points and only goal differential separating them from the Salvadorenos.  In fact the Ticos were lucky even to be at this point needing, a last minute stoppage time equalizer against El Salvador just to finish in 2nd.  With teams like Panama, Honduras and Jamaica on the rise, perhaps the days of Costa Rica being the region’s de facto number 3 team are over.  Costa Rica is never quite the same as at home and with Honduras on the horizon, they may be returning there sooner than expected.

El Salvador played relatively well based on expectations heading in.  They nearly secured a key victory against Costa Rica that would have put them in the driver’s seat for 2nd place, after getting an early beatdown from Mexico.  El Salvador knew they needed a big game against Cuba and didn’t disappoint, exploding for 6 goals in a 6 – 1 win.  Still, this almost wasn’t enough.  Until a dramatic late goal by Panama evened things out with Canada, it seemed that late goal conceded to the Ticos would cost the Salvadorenos dearly.  With Panama’s help, El Salvador managed one of the two best 3rd place finishes (just ahead of Canada in goal differential) and a chance to play in front of a rabid, supportive fanbase at RFK Stadium in DC.  The large Salvadoran population in DC may be their best chance to get past Panama.  Though simply playing at RFK hasn’t always helped El Salvador, it certainly couldn’t hurt.

Cuba … not much to say here.  They did manage a goal, but had more defectors than said goals.  At times, I really have to wonder how this team was able to qualify, while Trinidad and Tobago did not.

Group B

Jamaica was dubbed by many as a strong dark horse heading in and they lived up to that billing and more through the first three matches.  The Reggae Boyz finished group play with a perfect record, joining Mexico in this feat.  They also were the only team to make it through without conceding a single goal.  In addition to a strong defensive effort, Jamaica brandished a relatively potent attack, finishing group play with 7 goals.  Just imagine how much more dangerous they would be with a healthy Omar Cummings on the pitch.  Jamaica will now provide a daunting task for the U.S.  Goals have already not come easy for the States and Jamaica’s backline probably will probably make them that much more difficult to come by.

Honduras while still generally considered a team on the way up, they are a young team.  The Catrachos started off by playing to a stalemate with a resurgent Guatemala and then were able to handily defeat Grenada, the tournament’s other whipping boys.  Honduras didn’t play up to their potential though, relying on a dominating win over Grenada to finish in 2nd.  The attack looked potent in this 7 – 1 win, but considering the competition, you have to wonder about their prospects to advance further.  Against stronger competition in Jamaica and Guatemala, the Catrachos were unable to find the back of the net.

Guatemala entered the Gold Cup on a semi – high as a footballing nation after their U – 20 squad was able to dispatch the United States and advance to the FIFA U – 20 World Cup.  Though not exactly the same roster, this feeling of success and confidence seemed to transpose itself onto the senior national team.  Though they played to a scoreless draw in their first group match with Honduras, the Chapinos came out with a lot of energy and had some real good goal scoring opportunities.  After losing 2 – 0 to a strong Jamaican team, Guatemala secured advancement with a 4 – 0 victory over Grenada.  The Chapinos were able to advance as one of the two best third place teams, based on a superior goal differential to Canada and El Salvador.

Grenada, like Cuba, was probably just happy to be there.  They were also happy to score a goal, which came against Honduras.  I’m glad that the island got to have their moment in the sun, but Grenada performed about where most expected them to.  Losing Shalrie Joseph before the tournament hurt, but I’m not sure his inclusion would have made much of a difference.

Group C

Panama were the surprise group winners.  The key moment for them was of course getting a win over the U.S. on American soil.  Even though this was somewhat unexpected, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility before the match either.  After all, Panama has given the United States a tough fight in the previous two Gold Cups.  This is definitely a team beginning to establish themselves as a potential regional power in the making.  It’s too soon to make any grandiose claims, but this is a team that could carve out a nice niche for themselves in CONCACAF.  Having a top notch striker such as Blas Perez doesn’t hurt either.

The United States continued one streak, always qualifying for the knockout rounds of the Gold Cup, while saying goodbye to another one.  The Americans can no longer stake a claim to an unbeaten record in the group stage.  Though they beat Canada comfortably, 2 – 0, their performance was still lackluster at times.  Despite falling to Panama on Matchday Two, the U.S. continued a trend they displayed during the World Cup, a propensity for creating an array of goal scoring opportunities, only to find the finishing a bit faulty (think Algeria match).  Like the final group game of the World Cup, the U.S. pelted the Panamanian backline with dangerous passes and crosses (especially over the last 10 minutes), only to find seemingly sure goals go by the wayside. The Americans had a similar situation unfold in the final group match with Guadeloupe.  Countless chances were wasted, with Clint Dempsey being a big culprit. The defense has also had some pretty shaky moments during the group stage.  Still this is a very talented team, that has only given up two goals so far.  The team has shown some really good ball movement.  The attack has flown right up until the final third, all that’s needed now is that finishing touch.

Canada probably suffered the biggest heartbreak of the opening round.  Though it had to be heartbreaking for Cuba and Grenada to get constantly throttled, it’s even worse when you have advancement whisked away just seconds before achieving it.  The Canadians recovered from their opening match loss to the U.S. with a tight 1 – 0 win over Guadeloupe.  After taking the early lead against Panama in the final game, they were just moments away from advancing in at least third place.  However, Panama were able to score after the ball ping ponged around the box in a frenzy.  After a frantic failed attempt at clearance, the ball trickled into the back of the net over three minutes into stoppage time.  You could practically see the life drained out of the Canadians at this moment.  Things were now out of their hands and they had to wait to see if Guadeloupe could pull off a shock upset of the U.S., which of course, didn’t happen.

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  1. Chris Riordan

    June 16, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    I actually meant to mention that in the piece, also that only one CFU club advanced. Like Robert said about the UNCAF teams, Im not sure if either development is much of a shock.

    Though I do think that Guadeloupe would have had a much better to go on had the been drawn into either of the other groups, especially Group A.

  2. Jason

    June 16, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    What I find troublesome…5 Central American teams make the last 8?!!! I don’t like that one bit. Whats up with that man. I wonder how these Central American teams would match up against Mid Tier Euro teams. I think they would be quiet comptetive.

    • Robert

      June 16, 2011 at 1:33 pm

      Well, I’m not too surprised those Countries had to qualify unlike the Mexico, USA and Canada.

  3. Robert

    June 16, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    The thing I find troublesome is that Canada and USA share the same % of MLS players on its current roster and Canada failed to qualify and USA had trouble in its group with a loss and an unconvincing win v. Guadaloupe. On the flip side Mexico only has 1 MLS player and crushed its group with a perfect record.

    If USA does not make it to the final I feel a feasibility study needs to be in place to see why development is not producing international talent. Mexico’s level of play has seen an dramatic increase with its new coach and young talent.

    • Charles

      June 16, 2011 at 2:36 pm

      You don’t need a feasibility study, that would like having those studies on hangovers….conclusion: it is caused by drinking.

      First of all Mexico and the US have been very equal lately. So the MLS Hater Troll part of you can go away please.

      Second, We have system of “acedemies” in place that says, if you are a good player AND have $1000+ to throw away on kids sports starting in elementary school, then you can have your kid join a “select” soccer team.
      IF not, you might as well go join another sport it is too late for you to be a soccer player.

      It doesn’t take a feasibility study to realize that we are getting the best doctor’s kids out there. The guy sitting next to me…his kid switched from soccer to football (while playing other sports too, something soccer coaches don’t usually want either) Now he is being recruited by all the top colleges….in football….American football.

      • Robert

        June 16, 2011 at 2:54 pm

        Yes Charles, lets say Mexico and USA have been “equal” lately. Mexico’s 13 goal differential v. USA’s 2 goal differential in the Gold Cup. Fuzzy math my friend.

        • Charles

          June 18, 2011 at 1:01 pm

          Do you EVER open you mouth and say anything worth listening to ?
          Ever ?

          What is the record this century Robert ?
          Robert ?

          Hello ?

  4. Taz

    June 16, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Jamaica vs USA will go into overtime and be decided by penalty kicks.

  5. pupa

    June 16, 2011 at 10:43 am

    jamaica should record their first victory over the USA senior team

  6. CTBlues

    June 16, 2011 at 10:21 am

    Sunday’s match against Jamacia is going to be tough for the US. I have a feeling we may be knocked out and could possibly see Bob shown the door or at least should be shown the door if we loose.

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