Gold Cup

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 - 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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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: 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: Costa Rica by Harrison Crow

I know the popular thought going into this tournament is that the suave and cool pick to win everything is Costa Rica. They have a lot of very talented individuals throughout their roster rooted in various European leagues. It's basically everyone's best case scenario of how the United States roster would be constructed. A little bit of Serie A and a little bit of Premier League, a guy from La Liga. It's a recipe for either Jurgen Klinsmann's best XI or his family's bakery for cinnamon rolls. One or the other.

The thing about the roster is regardless of where the players are reporting from it hasn't directly influenced the recent results. Their current state is that they've done just enough to stay where they were coming out of the World Cup. Overall they've not been good, not necessarily bad, but not good. The last six months has seen them suffer draws to Paraguay and Mexico, losses to Panama, Colombia and Spain. They haven't actually won since 14 October last year against South Korea.

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Gold Cup Team Preview: Honduras by Drew Olsen

Honduras is the team nobody wants to play. With the USA and Panama the clear favorites to finish 1st and 2nd in Group A, Honduras has little pressure on their backs. This was a difficult group draw for them, but their path to the knockout stages isn't unimaginable. Featuring a cohesive and experienced pool of talent, this is a team that is capable of surprising some experts. Still, the big names left off the final roster have raised some questions about if they’re taking this tournament seriously.

How did they get here?
Honduras was the last team to qualify for the Gold Cup after beating French Guiana over two legs. In a battle between the 5th place teams in the Caribbean Football Union and Central American Football Union respectively, Anderlect player and DC United veteran Andy Najar was the hero when his brace helped “La H” come back from a 3-1 defeat in the 1st leg to win 4-3 on aggregate.

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Gold Cup Team Preview: United States by Jared Young

On July 7th the United States Men will play their first competitive match in nearly a year, and in so doing begin their defense of the Gold Cup. A successful run through the final in Philadelphia would guarantee their place in the Confederations Cup in 2017, and confirm them as the dominant force in CONCACAF. Failure to win would not be the end of the world, but it would put a damper on the momentum the team has recently built with a positive World Cup run followed by overall strong performances in this cycle’s friendlies. In the end, a Gold Cup win keeps the U.S. on Jurgen Klinsmann’s aggressive path to improvement. An exit of any kind will start to raise doubts if the team has the talent to make a serious run this cycle.

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Gold Cup Team Preview: Haiti by Drew Olsen

With no disrespect, Haiti falls into the “just happy to be there” category of teams in the 2015 Gold Cup. Having only five appearances previously, they have fewer than any other team in this year's tournament. Placed into the “group of death” alongside Honduras, Panama, and the United States, a result in any game will be difficult, and replicating the three points they earned in 2013 will be a challenge.

How did they get here?
“Les Grenadiers” (best team nickname in the tournament) qualified by finishing third in the 2014 Caribbean Cup, beating Cuba 2-1 in the third place game in November for their second straight bronze in that tournament. The biggest standout player for Haiti was 26 year old striker Kervens Belfort, who won the golden boot. Playing in France's 3rd division, there isn't much known about Belfort, but opposing teams will likely be focusing on him as a likely source of Haiti's goals.

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Gold Cup Team Preview: Panama by Harrison Crow

Panama has grown over the last few years from a being a small country that could, to being a very strong CONCACAF side that could steal the show away from what is a growing expectation of a Mexico-United States showdown. A couple of years ago in 2013 Gold Cup they upset Mexico not once but twice and found a way to get back to the final for the second time in a decade.

They're not a powerhouse with elite players but have a lot of solid role players that understand what needs to happen to cultivate a style that enables them to be successful. A team that isn't always pretty but does all the little things to win balls and give them the best chance at winning the match.

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