By Evan Ream

The 11th CONCACAF Gold Cup will kick off this Sunday with Costa Rica taking on Cuba. USA will look to match Mexico’s five Gold Cup titles, while Mexico will look to go two ahead of the US. Canada, the only other champion with 1, also brought a strong squad that they hope to contend with. For a look at the tournament bracket go here. Here are my picks for the tournament:

Group A

Mexico

Costa Rica

El Salvador

Cuba

June 5

Costa Rica vs. Cuba

Costa Rica may have brought a younger squad to this tournament, but they still brought some established players in their system. Celso Borges and Alvaro Saborio are both players that destroyed USA in a summer of 2009 visit. Both of them should be big contributors while they have also brought possibly the second best striker in CONCACAF (behind Javier Hernandez) in Bryan Ruiz. Ruiz doesn’t have the greatest scoring record for his national team, but as he showed last fall against USA in a two goal performance, he is always a dangerous player. Meanwhile the Cuba team consists of mostly unknowns. I wouldn’t expect many of these players to do much; many of them may defect as has happened in recent Gold Cups. Costa Rica is easily the better team here. Costa Rica 3 Cuba 1.

Mexico vs. El Salvador

When Arturo Alvarez is your best player, your chances aren’t good. Alvarez is one of three players in the El Salvador squad playing abroad right now and with the weakness of the El Salvador league, that isn’t a good sign. Mexico on the other hand has an extremely strong squad. Javier Hernandez, just coming of an excellent season with Manchester United leads the team along with new century cap club man Rafael Marquez and the always dangerous Andres Guardado of Deportivo La Coruna. This is always the kind of game where Mexico puts up big numbers on the minnow. Mexico 3 El Salvador 0.

June 9

Costa Rica vs El Salvador

Costa Rica don’t have a deep enough squad to dominate the smaller teams every time they play. El Salvador will be desperate from their opening loss. I expect a tight game with few scoring chances. Costa Rica 1 El Salvador 1.

Cuba vs. Mexico

This game shouldn’t be a challenge for the Mexicans who may rest several of their starters for the final group game against Costa Rica. Expect the Mexican second stringers to coast to an easy win. Mexico 4 Cuba 0.

June 12

El Salvador vs. Cuba

Due to the fact that two of the three third place teams will advance to the quarterfinals in this tournament, both teams will still be alive in this game. This game should be close for a while, but ultimately El Salvador will prove to be the better team. El Salvador 2 Cuba 1.

Mexico vs. Costa Rica

Mexico will have already clinched a spot in the quarterfinals before this game starts, but they will still want to end on a high note. Costa Rica on the other hand will be looking for the win in order to win the group. I expect this game to be a sloppy, boring affair similar to the USA vs. Costa Rica final group game in 2005. Mexico 0 Costa Rica 0.

With those results, the final group standings would be:

           Team                  Points     GF     GA     GD

  1. Mexico                 7             7       0       +7
  2. Costa Rica            5             4        2       +2
  3. El Salvador           4             3        5       -2
  4. Cuba                   0             2        9       -9

Group B

Honduras

Guatemala

Jamaica

Grenada

June 6

Jamaica vs. Grenada

Jamaica looked to have a very strong attacking side heading into this competition, then Omar Cummings, their best player, pulled out of the competition citing injury. Jamaica still has a good team but they are much less scary with Omar Cummings’ absence. Without him, they will be forced to rely on the speedy but inconsistent Dane Richards and Ryan Johnson, the Earthquakes forward who scored 11 goals in 2009 but has just one goal since then. Andy Williams is also absent from the Jamaican squad. On a side note, I’m really not sure why Houston’s Lovell Palmer isn’t on this squad. Grenada, unfortunately, look like the minnows of not only this group, but this competition. In their one previous appearance in the Gold Cup (2009), they finished with 0 points and didn’t score a single goal. Making matters worse, their best player by far Shalrie Joseph pulled out of the competition. This game should be an easy warm-up for the Jamaicans. Jamaica 3 Grenada 0.

Honduras vs. Guatemala

Honduras is a team in transition. After making an excellent run to qualify for the World Cup, many of their heroes are gone. Amado Guevara, Carlos Pavon, and David Suazo, all regular players in the old generation are not on this squad. Despite having a few solid veterans in Wilson Palacios and Carlo Costly, this is a young side and shouldn’t be as good as the team was in the last few years. With most of their players playing domestically, Guatemala is somewhat of an enigma. Carlos Ruiz and Marco Pappa will be familiar to MLS fans, but that is where the familiarity, and likely quality, ends. This should be a good game, but ultimately I think that Honduras’s EPL veterans and Carlo Costly will help them more than Guatemala’s MLS veterans. Honduras 2 Guatemala 1.

June 10

Jamaica vs. Guatemala

Jamaica should take this game easily. Carlos Ruiz and Marco Pappa may be able to exploit Jamaica’s suspect defense, but the Raegee Boyz will be too fast and too skillful for this Guatemalan team. Jamaica 3 Guatemala 1.

Grenada vs. Honduras

Honduras will likely field a younger squad to rest up for the group deciding match vs Jamaica. As a result, this game will likely be closer than the Hondurans would like, but they should still come away with the victory. Honduras 1 Grenada 0.

Guatemala vs. Grenada

Both teams will have hopes of using this game to gain 3 points and possibly qualify for the quarterfinals in one of the 3rd place spot. Neither team will be so lucky, but the Grenadians will take confidence in scoring their first ever Gold Cup goal. Guatemala 2 Grenada 1.

Jamaica vs. Honduras

Both teams will sit back and take few chances in this group deciding game. Wait, what am I saying? Neither of these teams care about defense. Expect this game to be a shootout with Jamaica ultimately proving to be a little bit stronger. Jamaica 3 Honduras 2.

The group standings after these games will look like this:

           Team                Points     GF     GA     GD

  1. Jamaica              9             9       2        +7
  2. Honduras           6             5        4       +1
  3. Guatemala          3             4       6        -2
  4. Grenada             0             1        6       -6

Group C

USA

Canada

Panama

Guadeloupe

June 7

Panama vs. Guadeloupe

What do we know about either of these squads? Stephane Auvray of Guadeloupe is a decent player for Sporting KC. Blas Perez of Panama destroys USA every time they play each other and… that’s about it. Panama’s Luis Tejada was very good in their surprise 2005 Gold Cup run where they lost to USA in the final…but then he failed to make an impression at Real Salt Lake who were a terrible team at the time. Really, both of these teams shouldn’t be expected to do much but Panama looks slightly better. Panama 2 Guadeloupe 1.

USA vs. Canadaclint-dempsey-usa

Despite the roster surprises, USA brought an extremely strong team to the tournament that includes the best player in CONCACAF as well as two of the top three. Clint Dempsey is finally peaking in his career and with apologies to Javier Hernandez, is the best player in CONCACAF right now. In addition to Dempsey and Hernandez, Landon Donovan rounds out the top three players as he is playing some of the best soccer in his career right now (eight goals in 11 MLS games). Unfortunately for USA, Stuart Holden is injured right now, otherwise USA would have three of the top four players in CONCACAF on their team. Just for fun, let’s look at my CONACAF Best XI:

Bryan Ruiz          Javier Hernandez

Clint Dempsey          Stuart Holden          Wilson Palacios          Landon Donovan

Carlos Salcido          Carlos Bocanegra          Rafael Marquez          Steve Cherundolo

Tim Howard

I truly feel that USA has six of the best eleven players in CONCACAF and thus should be primed for a big tournament. Canada, on the other hand, is somewhat of an unknown. They are always dangerous and have good players, but can they put all their off the field problems behind them and finally do something of note? The three players from this squad to watch are Dwayne De Rosario, Will Johnson, and Atiba Hutchinson. Canada should give USA some problems, but ultimately the result will never be in doubt. USA 2 Canada 0.

June 11

Canada vs. Guadeloupe

After a rough start, Canada will get it together and play a great match. There isn’t really anything else to say about this match. Canada 2 Guadeloupe 0.

USA vs. Panama

Contrary to their three previous meetings at the Gold Cup, this match will be a thrashing. In order for me to win my bet with American Outlaws, I need Jozy Altidore to score four goals before the final. I say he gets three in this game in a comfortable American win. Blas Perez will get his token goal against USA though. USA 5 Panama 1.

June 14

Canada vs. Panama

Both of these teams will be looking to get second in the group, with Canada having the inside track thanks to a superior goal differential. In a hard fought game, I think Canada will go down early and fight while Panama packs it in. Panama will do almost enough, but succumb to a late equalizer. Canada 1 Panama 1.

USA vs. Guadeloupe

USA will already be sure of qualification to the next round and thus trot out their bench players. Freddy Adu, Robbie Rogers, and Chris Wondolowski will all be given a chance. USA will put one in the back of the net at some point, but it will remain 1-0 until a late substitute (Dempsey, Donovan or Altidore) bags the insurance goal. USA 2 Guadeloupe 0.

The Final Group Standings will be:

           Team              Points     GF     GA     GD

  1. USA                9             9       1        +8
  2. Canada            4             3       3          0
  3. Panama           4             4       7         -3
  4. Guadeloupe     0             1       6         -5

The third place teams will then be ranked like this with Panama and El Salvador qualifying for the quarterfinals and Guatemala going home.

           Team               Points    GF      GA     GD

  1. El Salvador         4           3        5       -2
  2. Panama                4           4        7      -3
  3. Guatemala         3           4        6        -2

June 18

Costa Rica vs. Honduras

In what might be the best matchup of the quarterfinals, Costa Rica and Honduras will battle evenly until a late Bryan Ruiz winner decides the game. Costa Rica 2 Honduras 1.

Mexico vs. Panama

Blas Perez will give the Mexicans trouble, but nothing will come of it, as Mexico should go in for the easy win. Mexico 4 Panama 1.

June 19

Jamaica vs. Canada

This will be the other great matchup of the quarterfinals. Jamaica have a lot of strong players. Will they be able to beat the always underachieving Canada? I say no. Will Johnson and Atiba Hutchinson will control things in the midfield, but ultimately this one will come down to penalties and the Jamaican’s composure will fail them. Canada 1 Jamaica 1, 5-3 on penalties.

USA vs. El Salvador

This game will be no contest from the start and similar to the last group game in the 2007 Gold Cup where even Taylor Twellman scored. USA 3 El Salvador 0.

June 22

Mexico vs. Costa Rica

For some reason, Costa Rica always gives Mexico fits. Mexico will have trouble containing Bryan Ruiz while Costa Rica will have trouble containing just about everyone. Mexico SHOULD win this game, but stranger things have been known to happen. This is a trap game for Mexico. Mexico 2 Costa Rica 1.

USA vs. Canada

This is another trap game that I predict will go down to the wire. USA will be somewhat overconfident and end up being a bit humbled by the surprising Canadian side. The game will be scoreless until the 80th minute when some random defender or midfielder gets a garbage goal. USA will then defend like crazy from the barrage of Canadian attacks. In all, it will end up a lot like the 2007 Gold Cup Semifinal. USA 1 Canada 0.

June 25

USA vs. Mexico

This is the final that everyone expects, wants and fears. Both sides will be relishing the opportunity to prove that they are the best side in CONCACAF. It will be a tight affair with many cards and ultimately only one team will be champion. Javier Hernandez will give Mexico an early lead on a defensive miscue, but then the American’s midfield dominance will show. Some combination of Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley (if he doesn’t get his token red card in the semifinal), and Maurice Edu along with Donovan and Dempsey will shut down the Mexican’s midfield and deny service to Hernandez. USA will score two goals and the Mexicans will lose their composure and someone like Marquez will be sent off for something stupid. USA will finish the Mexicans off with a stoppage time goal to make the victory even sweeter for the American Outlaws. USA 3 Mexico 1.

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Comments
  1. BASIR says:

    WAY TO GO USA AND COME BACK WITH A GOAL TO THE COUNTRY

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