The Confederation of North, Central America, and Caribbean Football (CONCACAF) Gold Cup begins tonight in the USA. The American team will look to repeat as Gold Cup champions after defeating Jamaica 1-0 in the final back in 2017. Although CONCACAF was not smart to schedule the Gold Cup tournament at the same time as the Copa America tournament, the Gold Cup always has some sort of intrigue as Jamaica has advanced to the finals in two straight tournaments even though everyone expects the US and Mexico to play against each other for the championship every time.
The Gold Cup Tournament is comprised of four groups with four teams in each group. After the teams in each group play against each other in a round-robin format, the top two in each group will advance to the quarterfinals. Let’s take a quick look at all of the teams in the Gold Cup this year.
1. Mexico. Once again, Mexico is the definitive favorite in this tournament. After losing in the semifinals to Jamaica in 2017, El Tri’s only goal is to win the entire thing this time. Mexico has assembled a complete, experienced team with very few weaknesses. World-renown goalkeeper Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa (Standard Liege) will look to stop every shot with help from a defense led by Carlos Salcedo (Tigres UANL), Nestor Araujo (Celta Vigo), and Hector Moreno (Real Sociedad). The midfield is just as good with Andres Guardado (Real Betis) and Johnathan Dos Santos (LA Galaxy). Up front, opposing defenders will have to deal with Raul Jimenez (Wolverhampton) and Thomas Pizarro (Monterrey). They will have to be good because Group A is the toughest group out of the four groups.
2. Canada. The Canadians have a very solid team as well as the players on this team play professionally in the USA or in Europe. The strength of this team is upfront in midfield with Atiba Hutchinson (Besiktas), Scott Arfield (Rangers), Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich), and Johnathan David (Gent). Also, Canada has a pair of proven scorers in Junior Hoilett (Cardiff City) and Cyle Larin (Besiktas). Canada is definitely a sleeper in this tournament.
3. Martinique. Martinique is a tiny island, but they have the capability to pull off an upset. Most of the players on this team play professionally in Europe, but there are a few players that play internationally that gives them a legitimate chance to qualify. The defense will be rather stout with Jean-Sylvain Babin (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Jordy Delem (Seattle Sounders), and Samuel Geoffroy (Tenerife). Up front, forward Kevin Fortune (Troyes) will look to score goals. If they play with the right strategy, then Martinique could possibly pull off a 1-0 upset against either Mexico or Canada.
4. Cuba. The problem with the Cuban team is that their restrictive government does not allow players to enhance their skills and their pocketbooks. Their government only permits their players to play professionally in the Caribbean or in Central America. The lack of competition will hurt them in this tough group.
1. Costa Rica. Los Ticos should win this group basically by default. The defense will be sturdy with defenders Oscar Duarte (Espanyol) and Bryan Oviedo (Sunderland). Playmakers Bryan Ruiz (Santos FC) and Celso Borges (Goztepe) will look to get the ball to Joel Campbell (Club Leon). This team peaked about five years ago when they reached the World Cup quarterfinals, but they have enough to win this group rather easily.
2. Haiti. The only chance Haiti has to win some games is to attack relentlessly each and every match. Fortunately, Haiti has strikers Herve Bazile (Le Havre), Duckens Nazon (St. Mirren), and Jonel Desire (Lori FC) that are capable of outscoring teams. Haiti is exciting to watch because they look to score, but they are also vulnerable to counterattacks.
3. Nicaragua. Nicaragua also has an interesting team that will have to outscore teams as well, but does not have the defensive talent to contend in this group.
4. Bermuda. Bermuda will be making their first appearance in the Gold Cup. Forward Nahki Wells (Burnley) will look to make an impact up front. Another cool thing about this team is that most of the players on this team plays for Robin Hood FC in Bermuda. Hopefully, they will not be overwhelmed by this triangle of opposing teams in this group (pun woefully intended).
1. Jamaica. A majority of players on the Jamaican team play in the MLS, so they have a solid core that tends to overachieve in the Gold Cup. However, forward Leon Bailey (Bayer Leverkusen) adds a touch of world-class scoring to this team, which means that Jamaica is a threat to go far in the Gold Cup once again.
2. Curacao. Although most of the players on this team play professionally in the Netherlands, they do not have many impact players. However, goalkeeper Eloy Room (PSV), midfielder Leandro Bacuna (Cardiff City), and forward Elson Hooi (ADO Den Haag) should give them enough to qualify for the quarterfinals.
3. Honduras. If the team’s performance last month is a precursor of things to come, then Honduras is in trouble.
4. El Salvador. If I have El Salvador ranked behind Honduras, then their team is not too good.
1. USA. Hey, look! Venezuela scored again! Fortunately, Venezuela is not in this group. The American team will look to regroup by being placed in the easiest group in this tournament. The USA should be able to turn things around with Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), the goal-scorer that gave the Americans the Gold Cup championship in 2017, along with the young midfield of Weston McKennie (Schalke), Tyler Adams (Red Bull Leipzig), Duane Holmes (Derby County) and Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund). This midfield will have to control possession because this defense looked atrocious this past Sunday.
2. Panama. The key to this team is 21 year-old midfielder Jose Rodriguez (Alaves). He will have to be the young engine on this team since the rest of Panama’s good players are 30 and over.
3. Trinidad and Tobago. T and T lacks the explosiveness needed to win games in this group. That horrible pun was intended.
4. Guyana. Guyana is just happy to be in this tournament.