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CONCACAF Gold Cup Analysis: Group C

Gold Cup’s Group C will be the most watched group. It includes the host nation, the United States, as well as Costa Rica, Cuba and Belize.

There will be some familiar faces pitted against each other and could be considered the strongest group in the competition with Costa Rica and the United States, both potential World Cup contestants and Gold Cup finalists.  The games will be held in Portland, Sandy (Utah) and East Hartford.  The United States will be counting on its home support during this competition and in a country where soccer’s stock is rising, expect stadiums to fill up.

MORE — CONCACAF Gold Cup Analysis: Group A.
MORECONCACAF Gold Cup Analysis: Group B
MORE — CONCACAF Gold Cup Preview.
MORE — CONCACAF Gold Cup TV Schedule.

United States

Like many other nations, the US men’s national team will be focusing on the upcoming World Cup qualifiers and have sent a weakened team to the Gold Cup, which does not include Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley or Jozy Altidore.  The US debated sending the full squad. However Klinsmann has been known to rotate his squads and wanted to include fringe players as well as give some of the more experienced players another chance.

Since losing to Honduras in the qualifiers back in February, the USMNT have won four and tied one, which has resulted in much praise for the under fire German manager.  Although the US will be fielding a weakened team, many of the players have either been regular national team players at one point in their career, or have excelled at their club team in recent months.

Since Mexico have also decided to leave their stars at home, pressure will be mounting on the US to win the Gold Cup, a feat they have not achieved since 2007.  The US players will also be eager to put on a good display in order to be picked for the US team competing in the World Cup qualifiers later on this year and hopefully make the final roster for Brazil 2014.  There will be some great players on display, such as Stuart Holden, DaMarcus Beasley, and Ogucho Onyewu.

Players to Watch:  It would be cliché to choose Landon Donovan, but he will certainly have to redeem himself for his diva-like behavior in the past six months.  Love him or hate him, Donovan is a talented player and is en-route to become his country’s most capped player and the country’s top scorer.  Although the coveted and disputed “best US-player” mantle has unequivocally been handed to Clint Dempsey in recent years, at 31, Donovan will play his last World Cup next year, and is desperate to make the final squad list.

After some scintillating displays by Jozy Altidore for the USMNT in the past few months, he has become the undisputed number one striker for the team.  His pending move to Sunderland and goal scoring exploits in the Dutch League will make him the national team’s striker for the World Cup, a position Herculez Gomez would like to overtake.  He hasn’t featured much for the US, but he offers them a different option up front. Plus his strength, as well as his hold up play, will work well with Donovan’s maneuverability.

Costa Rica

In recent years, their title as Central America’s best team has been challenged by Honduras, but Costa Rica is currently leading in the last stage of the World Cup qualifiers and has one foot in Brazil. Unfortunately, like many of the other teams at the Gold Cup they have rested most of their stars and brought in a mix of talent.  Fans were looking forward to watching Bryan Ruiz, Joel Campbell and Bryan Oviedo light up the Gold Cup, but they will have to wait for the next World Cup qualifier to see that.  Nevertheless Costa Rica is not sending a bunch of amateurs to the tournament and even their fringe players could mount a challenge.  Costa Rica has qualified for the World Cup on three occasions and has won the CONCACAF championship three times, but never have they won the modern Gold Cup version.  Costa Rica has also benefitted from a strong league that has produced great players over the years as well as a great team in Deportivo Saprissa, which in turn has served as a conveyor belt of talent to the national team.

Players to Watch: Alvaro Saborio is a regular on the Costa Rican national team and is an absolute goal machine wherever he goes.  US audiences know him for his exploits at Real Salt Lake.  With him at the helm, Costa Rica will be scoring and he can be a strong contender for the Gold Cup golden boot award.

Yeltsin Tejada has already made a name for himself in Costa Rica at Saprissa as a midfield maestro and creative playmaker, but has not been able to break through to the national team. At 21, he has a chance to show the Costa Rican national coach why he should be chosen alongside Ruiz as Costa Rica’s creative spark.


This team has become a regular at the Gold Cup, but they have consistently served as the group’s whipping boy, often finishing last in the group without registering any points.  The team has been plagued by defectors escaping Cuba’s dying economy and seeking lucrative contracts abroad.  At the ast Gold Cup tournament, Yosniel Mesa defected from the team’s camp and in 2005 Maykel Galindo, formerly of FC Dallas, defected.  While Cuba is considered one of the stronger teams in the Caribbean, they are still miles away from a World Cup spot.  Cuba, however, did win the 2012 Caribbean Cup, beating Trinidad & Tobago 1-0 in the final.

Players to Watch: Not much is known about the Cuban players; quite frankly not much is known about the Cuban league either which makes identifying their stars a tough task.  Ariel Martinez was a stand-out player during the Caribbean Cup and helped Cuba win the competition, contributing two goals.  Cuba often arrives to the Gold Cup with a weakened team, fearing that their stars will end up defecting in order to build a better life abroad.


This is the first time Belize will be competing at the Gold Cup and for a team that has only been in existence since 1995, luck had a role to play with that qualification.  Without Deon McCaulay’s winner in stoppage time against Nicaragua during the UNCAF tournament, the Jaguars would not be at this tournament and their ignominy in the soccer world would be continuing.  Soccer is Belize’s most popular sport, but that has yet to translate into success. Recent years saw a merger of two competing leagues to create the Belize Premier League, which kicked off in 2011 and came in the aftermath of being suspended by FIFA for governmental intervention.

Players to Watch:  As already mentioned, Deon McCaulay scored a vital goal in the road to the Gold Cup, adding to his goal scoring record for his country.  The young player has caught the eye of some MLS sides and will want to extend his stay in the United States.


The fight for the top spot will be disputed between the United States and Costa Rica. The two previously met in March when Clint Dempsey scored a winner in a match dubbed snowmageddon.  Costa Rica will want revenge, not only for a loss but for what they felt were unfair playing conditions.

Based on the squad selection, the United States not only has more experience in its squad but momentum is on their side.  The mouthwatering game between political rivals, the United States and Cuba, has been played in previous Gold Cup competitions and Cuba has rarely stood a chance.  Cuba and Belize have never faced each other and their first competitive match will most likely determine third in this group.  The US is most likely to top this group, with Costa Rica close behind and Belize winning coming in third.

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  1. Dan

    July 9, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    It will be a travesty and a mockery of some proportions if the U.S. don’t qualify outright top of the group, especially with home advantage.

    Which brings me to the supposed mantle of US’s best player. It’s certainly not been Donovan.

    When your most hyped / revered star has hardly played in Europe save for a loan spell with Everton and a failed stint in Germany, it says much for the condition of your national team, isn’t it?

    In fact, I prefer Dempsey miles, miles more than Landon, though he HAS delivered on the world stage (read: WC) before.

    Clint puts in far more commitment, dedication, hard work, and tireless running to the cause in each and every match he plays. I’ve followed his career at Fulham for some time, and he may not score enough goals to be an archetypal fox-in-the-box or a van Persie / Torres (sorry, bad example) / or even Altidore type of striker, but his holdup and linkup play is superb. Very underrated player in my opinion, and perhaps a bit unlucky to be an American playing in England, where thinly-veiled dislike of those across the pond has never really been well disguised.

    Donovan just doesn’t have the courage or the professional drive to step outside his own small pond and star arena in the US, unlike Dempsey, Altidore, and even ex-players like Brian McBride..cos it has been a known fact that most Americans don’t thrive in Europe professionally.

    But to be truly recognised as a world power on the international stage, the US HAS got to get their star players in Europe, and in this area, they are just grinding into gear over the past 5 or so years. Mexico, on the other hand, have been farming out loads of quality players to Europe, esp. in the Mediterranean leagues, for eons. They have had players plying their trade in “lesser” leagues like Scotland, Holland etc. In fact, their most well-known player is a benchwarmer at Old Trafford. US players need to regard ANY sort of European league as experience, something far superior to the MLS. Perhaps it’s this ALL or nothing mentality that has restricted so many US talents from plying their trade across the pond in the past. Which is why I have a deep respect for Altidore, having played with teams as diverse as Hull, Alkmaar, Villarreal etc. Cos the MLS, no matter how much the North American media would like to brand it as “equal” or thereabouts to a mid-level European league, is NOWHERE NEAR European standard!!!

    If the US want to get somewhere beyond the second round in World Cups (ie. quarters or even a semi), and do well on a consistent basis, they have to produce more exports to European markets, ANY decent mid-level league, as long as it’s not Azerbaijan or Armenia or sth of that ilk of course. I daresay one year of experience in the Netherlands, or even somewhere like Poland or Serbia, is worth five back home in the MLS, just for the exposure and international experience you get from playing with the big boys! It would certainly force you to integrate and learn / adapt, and cut big fishes in small ponds like Donovan down to size.

    Rubbing shoulders with a 33-year old nobody Scot from Boro, signed as the Whitecaps’ marquee player, or a semi-retired Italian libero in QC, no matter how impressive he may have been in his glittering career, is NOT on a par with even the Portuguese or Russian league, or I daresay, Ukraine / Serbia / Holland!

    The US still has some way to go before it can be considered world-beaters, on par with the likes of higher mid-level teams just below the top tier, ie. Portugal, Russia, Sweden, Croatia etc.

    Heck, they have been losing regional finals / matches to Mexico in recent times! I will be watching this Gold Cup very closely.. cos with home advantage, not only must the US win, they must win in style worthy of Concacaf champions, especially with the Mexicans bringing a totally home-based squad this time round..

    Come on Jurgen!

  2. Jad

    July 8, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    I think they should make the tournament every four years as opposed to every two years, it would spice up the competition. Perhaps make it after the world cup, so 2015, 2019 etc.
    Would have loved to see Ruiz and Joel Campbell as well.

  3. jodie

    July 8, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    I was so looking forward to Ruiz playing, why are they all keeping their stars at home.

    • Christopher Harris

      July 8, 2013 at 6:32 pm

      The teams are saving their stars for the World Cup qualifying.

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