Posted on: June 18, 2011 3:30 pm

CONCACAF Gold Cup 2011 - Quarterfinal Preview

Of the four quarterfinal matchups this weekend I am confident in predicting only one winner, and those who have been following the tournament probably know who that is. Mexico is by far the favorite to win the tournament and there isn’t another team playing anywhere near the level the Group A champions displayed in the group phase.

With that said, let’s preview the weekend quarterfinal matchups…

SATURDAY, JUNE 18 – New Meadowlands Stadium, E. Rutherford, NJ
[A2-CRC] Costa Rica vs. Honduras [HON-B2]

The soccer gods are particularly cruel to these two teams in this matchup. These two sides battled it out for the third spot in “The Hex” for the 2010 World Cup with Honduras advancing and Costa Rica losing in a playoff to Uruguay. Both teams have been less than impressive so far in this tournament and both had identical results in the group phase by blowing out the fourth place team, drawing the third and losing to the winners, while finishing second over the third place team on GD.

I’d have to give a slight edge to Costa Rica here. All of Honduras’ seven goals in the tournament so far came against Grenada in a 7-1 blowout. Costa Rica hasn’t been impressive by any means, but they did score against Mexico in their last game while Honduras was shut out for second time in the Gold Cup by a reserve laden Jamaica squad. Don’t be surprised if this one gets chippy and makes it to extra time and/or penalties.

[A1-MEX] Mexico vs. Guatemala [GUA-B3] 

The only true mismatch of the quarterfinal stage in my opinion mainly because Mexico is on fire. Javier Hernandez can’t stop scoring and Guatemala doesn’t have the horses to stay with El Tri. With that said, Mexico needs to open the game up fast. If they allow Guatemala to hang around into the second half, Carlos Ruiz, Marco Pappa and the Guatemala attack might have just enough to punch home a goal. If Mexico gets out to an early lead and forces Guatemala to press more men forward, the counter attack will be wide open and this game could over after an hour.

SUNDAY, JUNE 19 – RFK Stadium, Washington D.C.
[B1-JAM] Jamaica vs. United States [USA-C2]

Another cruel matchup pits the streaking Reggae Boys of Jamaica against the USA. Jamaica rolled through a relatively weak Group B and its reward is a struggling USA side that slogged its way to a runner up finish in Group C. If the USA has their act together and shows up for all 90 minutes, this will be a great game I think. Lucky for the US, they’re hosting this tournament because if this game was in Jamaica tomorrow I don’t know if the USA wins it.

There are two keys to this game; First, how will the USA left match up against Dane Richards and the Jamaica 3-5-2 formation? Landon Donovan and the US left back (likely Steve Cherundolo) will have their hands full with the speedly NY Red Bulls winger and Donovan will also have to spend a lot more time up front, where he’s been MIA all tournament. If the USA can win this matchup, it will likely free up a ton of chances for Dempsey, Altidore and the rest of the USA but that brings me to the second key to the game…
Can the USA finish inside the 18? Somehow the USA defeated Guadeloupe on a thunderous strike from Jozy Altidore at the top of the box. But it’s the USA’s finishing inside the area that has been atrocious. I know Bob Bradley has been giving a lot of players looks up front at striker/forward due to lack of performance, but maybe it’s time to stick to one player next to Altidore up front.

[C1-PAN] Panama vs. El Salvador [SLV-A3]

This is another interesting matchup despite the differences in the two teams standing in their respective groups. El Salvador’s shining moment came in their near upset of Costa Rica, but a last minute equalizer by the Ticos meant that game finished in a draw. Panama pulled off a stunning upset of the USA, but have otherwise been largely unimpressive in my opinion.

Without sounding like a bitter USA fan, Panama was lucky to win Group C. They allowed Guadeloupe back into a game they were up 3-0, lucked out that the USA couldn’t buy another goal in the second half and got a last minute equalizer to draw and eliminate Canada. I still think that Panama’s striker duo of Perez and Tejada will be able to push the Red Tide into the semi-finals.

Posted on: June 6, 2011 8:26 am

CONCACAF Gold Cup 2011 Group B Preview

Grenada [GRN] – Rankings (FIFA – 98 / Elo – 134)
Nicknames – Spice Boys
Qualification – CFU (Carribbean) – 4th Place
CONCACAF Gold Cup – 1 Appearance, Group State in 2009 

Grenada took a huge blow to their chances at advancement to the knockout stages when New England Revolution midfielder Shalrie Joseph stayed with his club team. The Spice Boys roster consists of largely domestic and lower-tier English league players. Craig Rocastle of Sporting KC is the only MLS player on a roster that in any other group I would say is definitely outmatched. But aside from Honduras, I think Grenada should be fighting for points in their other matches against Jamaica (who beat them 2-0 in qualifying) and Guatemala.

 Guatemala [GUA] – Rankings (FIFA – 126 / Elo – 105)
Nicknames – Los Chapines, La Bicolor
Qualification – UNCAF (Central America) – 5th Place
CONCACAF Championships – 1967

Another minnow looking to make some noise in the shark tank is Guatemala. Another roster of largely domestic based players, the two you should know are MLS’ Marco Pappa (CHI Fire) and maddening striker and all time Guatemala scorer Carlos Ruiz (PHI Union). If they want to advance out of the group, they’re going to have to figure out how to get points from either Jamaica or Honduras and beat Grenada.

Honduras [HON] – Rankings (FIFA – 38 / Elo – 37)
Nicknames – Los Catrachos
Qualification – UNCAF (Central America) – Champions
CONCACAF Championships – 1981

 Like Costa Rica, Honduras is an emerging regional power in CONCACAF, qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. They are the clear favorites of the group, and boast a roster mix of experience and youth as well as domestic and international players, including players from the EPL and Bundesliga and Scottish PL as well as MLS’ Roger Espinosa (Sporting KC). Keep an eye on the likely starting strikers up top, Carlo Costly and Walter Martinez, who have a combined 28 goals in 88 caps between them. This is a group that plays a lot together as a lot of guys in their mid-20s have already been capped 40 times or more. If you’re looking for the first non-North American team to win the Gold Cup, this year’s Honduras squad should be your pick.

Jamaica [JAM] – Rankings (FIFA – 55 / Elo – 47)
Nicknames – Reggae Boys
Qualification – CFU (Carribean) – Champions
CONCACAF Gold Cup – 7 Appearances, 3rd in 1993

 Another team trying to break out into a regional power is Jamaica. They’ve been one of the best teams in the Caribbean in recent years, but that hasn’t translated into success in the CONCACAF region yet. For a nation of its size, Jamaica boasts a roster largely dominant of international players, including nice from MLS and six from Norway, including the squads leading scorer, striker Luton Shelton (Valerenga, NOR), who has 30 goals in just 55 caps. LA Galaxy’s starting goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts will likely be in goal for the Reggae Boys as well.

Standings (W-D-L, Pts, GD)                                                     Results
HON - (2-1-0, 7pts, +5                                                              JAM 3-1 GRN
JAM - (2-1-0, 7pts, +3                                                               HON 2-0 GUA
GUA - (1-0-2, 3pts, -2                                                                JAM 2-1 GUA
GRN - (0-0-3, 0 pts, -6                                                               GRN 0-3 HON
                                                                                                         GUA 2-1 GRN
                                                                                                         HON 1-1 JAM

Another group that has the best matchup last means another group where the top two teams have likely already qualified for the knockout rounds. I think Guatemala has a chance to advance as they are currently ahead of Cuba in the third place tiebreaker on goal differential and I wouldn't be suprised if they pick up a draw against Jamaica. I think Grenada is just between a rock and a hard place, despite the fact that this could be the best group for them to advance in. For either Grenada or Guatemala to advance to the knockout, they have to win their matchup and steal a point from probably Jamaica. I don't see Honduras losing in their first two matchups.

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