Gold Cup 2015 Previews

USMNT 1-2 Jamaica: The Reggae Boyz clear the dance floor by Jared Young

Hey U.S. fans, look on the bright side. We get an extra soccer game this fall! The USMNT will be in a one game playoff against either Mexico or Jamaica for the privilege of representing CONCACAF in the 2017 Confederations Cup. That bit of fun was brought to you by a loss of stunning proportion to Jamaica. The U.S. gave up two goals in five minutes off of set pieces in the first half and couldn’t mount a useful attack against a determined Jamaican defense. The 2-1 loss, the first to a Caribbean side on U.S. soil since 1968, will sting for a long time, especially for yours truly who was looking forward to going to the Gold Cup Final to watch the U.S. with his son. Not all stories have Hollywood endings. And certainly sports wouldn’t be sports without the heartbreak.

This game was a perfect example of why soccer statistics can sometimes lie. If you didn’t watch the game and just looked at the box score you might think that the U.S. was simply unlucky. They held 60% of the possession and completed 82% of their passes. They outshot the Jamaicans 20-10 and put 7 more shots on goal (10-3). The U.S. won the expected goal battle by a score of 2.3.-1.0, but looked up at the scoreboard at the end and saw the final score was actually reversed.

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USMNT 1 - 1 Panama: Sitting back and taking it easy by Jared Young

A desperate Panama team did enough to draw the United States 1-1, and earn the point they absolutely needed to have a hope of advancing to the quarterfinals of the Gold Cup. The USMNT, perhaps distracted by the heat and a game that meant little, woke up in the second half enough to salvage their result and fend off the critics. Panama must now wait to see if they advance while the U.S. awaits the identity of their opponent.

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USMNT 1 - 0 Haiti: just good enough by Jared Young

The United States still has not played close to their best soccer in the 2015 Gold Cup, but they still secured first place in Group A with a 1-0 win over Haiti in their second Group match. After Haiti’s 1-1 draw against Panama you got the suspicion this game would be tighter than expected, but it was even tighter than that. Haiti battled the entire match in impressive fashion and earned chances, but in the end the quality in their finishes abandoned them. The U.S. ultimately scored the winning goal in the 47th minute from their only shot taken inside the 18-yard box - a one-time strike from Clint Dempsey off a nice back pass from Gyasi Zardes. This is yet another case of take the win and move on, but Klinsmann has to be concerned that the team is unable to control opponents this early in the tournament.

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United States v Honduras Recap: Quality over Quantity by Jared Young

The USMNT held off a confident and gritty Honduras team and started Group A play in the CONCACAF Gold Cup with a 2-1 victory. Jurgen Klinsmann’s side was not sharp, holding less than 50% of possession against a team that was sitting back in a 5-4-1 formation, but they earned two goals off set pieces that found the magnificent head of Clint Dempsey, and broke up enough counterattacks by Honduras to survive.

The U.S.A.’s struggle with possession was part Klinsmann, part poor play and, of course, part Honduras. The troubles started tactically with Michael Bradley being placed at the top of the 4-4-2 diamond formation. The usually strong possession link between Kyle Beckerman and Bradley was broken up leaving the shuttling duo of Gyasi Zardes and DeAndre Yedlin to bring it back together. Both players are playing in an unnatural role and are not possession oriented players to begin with. Couple the midfield issue with just 50% pass completion percentage from right back Timmy Chandler and you have the recipe for a choppy performance.

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Gold Cup Team Preview: Cuba by Drew Olsen

On paper, Cuba is the worst team in this tournament. With both their FIFA and ELO rankings in the triple-digits, simply not losing any players to defection might be enough to satisfy many in Cuba. Mixed recent results - they drew fellow group C members Trinidad & Tobago 0-0 in last year’s Caribbean Cup, but also tied Curacao (177th in ELO) twice last month – make predictions difficult, but not being embarrassed in every game would probably be a successful tournament.

Getting information on this team is difficult because they’re the only roster that is made up entirely of players that play in their domestic league, and getting information into and out of Cuba isn’t exactly easy. Their greatest asset may come from how little their opponents know about them.

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Gold Cup Team Preview: Mexico by Sean Steffen

Last World Cup cycle, Mexico was an utter mess. The once kings of CONCACAF found themselves finishing in the last qualifying position, after the United States came from behind to beat Panama and handed their bitter rivals to the south a lifeline.

But Mexico wasn’t qualified just yet and still had to play a play-off series with New Zealand. It was at this time that Mexico hired then Club America coach, Miguel Piojo Herrera, to save Mexico. Herrera pretty much just brought his Club America team to New Zealand, a gamble that payed off, but nobody was really sure what the future of Mexico was going to look like going forward.

Who is their Head Coach?
American fans basked in hilarity of hearing stuff like this coming from their rivals, but El Piojo quietly rebuilt Mexico into the team they ended up being at the World Cup. His 5-3-2 system was not only novel, but it was incredibly nuanced in its attack and proved hard to break down. What’s more, it managed to allow Mexico’s stars to flourish in a way they simply weren’t in the previous system.

And as good as Mexico was in the World Cup, the team they are bringing to the Gold Cup is easily more talented which is why Mexico is considered by many, including myself, to be the tournament favorite.

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Gold Cup Team Preview: Trinidad & Tobago by Kevin Minkus

I have pretty fond memories of watching Trinidad and Tobago's 2006 World Cup team. I remember their two spirited showings against England and Paraguay, but mostly I remember Shaka Hislop and the Soca Warriors CONCACAFing Henrik Larsson, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Freddy Ljunberg, and Sweden while down a man.

It's definitely unfair to expect it, but this iteration of the T&T national team is not a breathtaking one. This iteration enters the Gold Cup having suffered losses to Jordan, Curacao, and Panama in the last three months. They currently sit 67th in the FIFA World Rankings, and 88th in the World Football Elo Ratings, their worst Elo rank since 2013. In order to have a successful tournament, they will need to recapture the form that saw them advance to the final of the 2014 Caribbean Cup (played last November), where they lost to Jamaica on penalty kicks.

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Gold Cup Team Preview: Guatemala by Drew Olsen

Guatemala is one of the teams being talked about the least, but don’t count them out. A favorable group draw and an experienced roster make this team a contender to become this year’s tournament surprise. Still, with only one win in their last eight games, questions about their coach and an overreliance on players well into their 30s may prove tough obstacles to overcome.

How did they get here?
They qualified for the Gold Cup by finishing 2nd in the 2014 Copa Centroamericana, losing  1-2 to Costa Rica in the final.

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Gold Cup Team Preview: El Salvador by Harrison Crow

They're here and they're not terrible. I think that's all I really have about them. 61% of their roster is comprised of guys from the local league, which most know practically nothing about, and those that are playing abroad aren't exactly playing in top leagues. The team has hipster pick written all over it and I feel like I could get on that train.

How did they get here?
Qualified through Central American zone coming in fourth place in 2014 Copa Centroamericana, losing to Panama 1-0 in the 3rd place game.

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Gold Cup Team Preview: Canada by Jared Young

Despite having the worst FIFA Ranking in the tournament, Canada is a good bet to get out of Group B and advance to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2009. They have quietly been playing very solid soccer for the last year and collected a 5-4-2 (W-D-L) record in their last eleven matches, including impressive draws against Bulgaria, Iceland and Panama. They are 5-1-0 in their last six CONCACAF matches as well. 

How did they get here?
Canada is a co-host for the tournament and therefore an automatic qualifier. This marks their 12th Gold Cup appearance out of thirteen, so they were a good bet to qualify regardless.

What Group are they in?
They are in Group B, along with favorite Costa Rica, Jamaica, and El Salvador. The winner of the group will play the Group A runner-up (probably Panama), the runner-up will play the Group C runner-up (probably Trinidad & Tobago or Guatemala) and third place will play either the Group C (Mexico) or Group A (USA) winner.

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