Gold Cup Diary: Volume I [VIDEOS]

Below will be a running commentary of all the matches played throughout the group stages of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

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Day 5 – June 10

700 pm Jamaica v. Guatemala

Jeff’s Take: The Reggae boys take hold!

900 pm Honduras v. Grenada

Jeff’s Take: It was 7-1.  What the hell do you expect to read?

Highlights: here.

Bryan’s Take: The two top teams, as expected, are on course to meet in the final match of Group B.  Jamaica continue to soundly defeat the lesser opponents of the group, this time needing a strong second half showing from Kemar Phillips, scoring both goals.  Guatemala put up a similar fight as they did in the Honduras game, but showed only a few sparks of life, eventually crumbling in the second 45.  Jamaica don’t quite look like a threatening team in this tournament, but a strong run of form is surely enough to give you a strong chance of making a semifinal.

Then there’s Honduras.  This team was a bit of a mystery after their sloppy goalless draw with Guatemala.  And with the 15th minute goal from Grenada, impressively bouncing off the crossbar and landing in with much duress, I had to wonder what kind of response Honduras would muster up.  Well.  7-1 final score, I think my question was answered.  Let’s make no mistake.  Grenada is not a good team.  They’re in their second Gold Cup, and lost all 3 games last year.  Honduras qualified for the World Cup as the third CONCACAF team.  Knowing those two facts, 7-1 should be an expected scoreline, but it really reminded me that Honduras are way more dangerous than recent form may have shown.  Carlos Costly scored a hat trick, one that seemed to almost bore him, almost not wanting to tuck the ball under his shirt after his third.

Grenada are all but out, with Guatemala looking to put a clinic on the island minnows, with the hopes that they can pip El Salvador on goal differential, at the very least.  So they still have something to play for.  But just like Group A, the main event is really the sixth and final game of the group.  I’m not as intrigued to see Jamaica/Honduras as I am Costa Rica/Mexico, but if Jamaica are serious about making a real charge in CONCACAF, a win over the third best team will see them avoiding a dangerous Group A 2nd place quarterfinal, instead taking on the second place Group C team.  They’re good enough to pull off the win, but need to control the Honduran charges and continue to defend strongly.  This is their first test, and there’s more than just the honor of winning the group at stake.

Day Four – June 9

700 pm Costa Rica v. El Salvador (1:1)

Bryan’s Take: This game was very strange.  First off, it started horribly late, cutting off the end on my DVR.  The Ticos took quite some time to get in gear, really waiting for the last ten minutes of the game, after threatening for the first 15 minutes, hitting the bar and pushing the pace like they’re known to do.  The spectacular free kick by Rodolfo Zelaya stunned Costa Rica, and provided an even bigger moment in the 5th minute of stoppage time, with Brenes sliding through the Salvadoran midfield and defense, finding just enough room to slot home the equalizer with the final whistle coming immediately after.

Jeff’s Take: If anything is to be taken from this match, it might be that Mexico may not face a significant test before the final.

Video Highlights: Here.

900 pm Mexico v. Cuba (5:0)

Bryan’s Take: Despite all the troubles surrounding the Mexican team with the suspensions of their players and the ensuing media circus that demands all of Univision and Telemundo’s attention, this was not the game where the missing players were going to go noticed.  Cuba held their own for about a half hour, then the goals started to trickle in, with the score going from 1-0 to 4-0 in 7 minutes.  With the earlier result, Costa Rica will need to shrug off the sluggishness and find a win to spoil the party and take Group A.

Group A’s main event seems to have been saved for last, with Costa Rica needing a win over Mexico to pip them as group winner.  A draw will be enough for Mexico, who still probably will not show the effects of the suspension just yet.  Their overall pace and outlet passing should handle Costa Rica rather easily.  El Salvador will be looking for the big win over Cuba, as 4 points could see them through as a 3rd place team, only if they can erase that nasty goal differential Mexico saddled them with.  It’s not a sure thing, but it’s something to make the game meaningful.

Jeff’s Take: I said coming off South Africa that I believe Mexico is not only a good side but might be a contender in 2014.  They are certainly dominating inferior opponents, with strikers to light up the scoreboard.  They have yet to face a side comfortable in possession.

Video Highlights: Here.

Day Three – June 7

800 pm – United States of America v. Canada (2:0)

First half: Steve Cherundolo was the story for me.  Covering the entirety of the pitch, the right back controlled much of the tempo and looked every bit of what we’ve heard he’s been in Germany.  Jozy Altidore’s goal should have been saved but it made up for Bocanegra’s miss from point-blank.  Only a DeRo scorcher looked threatening for Canada.

Second half: Aside from the lovely work that led to Clint Dempsey’s brilliant finish, this was not a half of excellent for the US.  (Tim Howard’s greatness aside.)  They looked content and lethargic – not a team ready to steamroll through a region they’re clearly at the upper echelon of.   Landon Donovan was awful.

Bryan’s Take: I half-jokingly said, to friends yesterday, that we should expect an “aggravating 2-0 win”.  I could not have been more right.  A lot of things were done well in this game.  The first 25 minutes looked threatening, with the US controlling the pace and using their refreshingly strong midfield to camp out and give the Canadian team a lot of trouble.  Altidore’s goal was perhaps a 6 on the Robert Green scale, but if it takes a mark on the score sheet to bring Jozy back to life, US fans will take it.  The team seemed sluggish going into the end of the first half and coming out of the second half. I’m not entirely sure Jermaine Jones should be starting over Maurice Edu, and after Edu came on, I think Bob Bradley realizes that too (as if the Ghana game wasn’t enough of a wake-up that Edu is capable of starting).  Clint Dempsey’s goal was amazing, something that took much more skill than the first viewing of it would lead you to believe, and a reminder that he should be playing forward more, at the very least as the top center of a midfield “W”.  Steve Cherundolo is apparently “playing the best football of his life” in Hannover lately, and it’s showing.  He and Goodson will need to step up the back four, with a sluggish Onyewu, and a Bocanegra who really showed the first signs of getting old last night.  Tim Howard’s one big save was amazing, consider the scramble that built up to it.  But, when you remember that Canada are poised to make a deep run in this tournament, and looking at the rest of the teams, Canada were easily the strongest of the losing sides.  This match-up fell somewhere between Costa Rica/Mexico and Honduras/Jamaica in the battle of top two in the group, so it should be looked at not in comparison to the first two days of games.  In the end, the results was efficient, and very good as this US team gets reacquainted with each other.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9bH5w9azb0

600 pm – Panama v. Guadeloupe (3:2)

First half: It’s becoming increasingly harder to write about these first round matches.  Panama was simply a more solid, more accomplished, better organized side throughout this half – leading to a 2-0 lead.  Guadeloupe is not completely hopeless but they don’t look to be the kind of side that can mount a seriously challenge against any of their group opponents.

Second half: Jovial’s heroics for Guadeloupe nearly overcame a misguided PK awarded to Panama as this turned into much more of a match than I believed it would.  Ultimately Guadeloupe didn’t have enough gas in the tank to find the equalizer in the final ten.

Bryan’s Take: I watched this game after the US game, and was pleasantly surprised to see two teams attacking what seemed to be paper-thin back fours on either side.  Guadeloupe, in my forgiving eyes, looked hard done by the red card against Mickael Tacalfred.  Yes, he seemed to stomp on the Panama player, but I think there’s some leeway that may need to be given when it appear that he’s at least trying to avoid the player.  Luis Henriques ended up being fine and playing the entire 90 minutes, while the irony of a player with the name “Tacal” committing a bad one is not lost on me.  Guadeloupe surge back in Reading-esque style with two gritty, chippy goals, further exposing the holes in Panama’s defense.  The result is fair, but I’d expect 3-3 if all 22 players were still on the pitch.  Mostly, I was reminded that these are the 3rd and 4th teams in the groups, so the competitive match was refreshing after the first two days.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUbV8LfQLH0

Day Two – June 6

9:00 pm EST – Jamaica v. Grenada (4:0)

First half: Jamaica simply has more pace and ability than Grenada as RBNY’s Dane Richards looked like an unstoppable force up front.  If this was your first soccer game, you’d assume he was the greatest player alive.  Grenada couldn’t complete a pass in the midfield and struggled to defend anyone at the back.  Jamaica 2-0.  (Side note: 90 people in attendance.)

Second half: Give credit to Grenada keeper Shemel Louison for stellar play, keeping Jamaica out of the nets three or four times early in the second half.  But unlike Cuba, who I was unsure of, I can’t unabashedly say Grenada is wretched.  Jamaica scored a pair more but could have easily score ten more.  4-0 final.

Bryan’s Take: Much like yesterday’s game, this result either speaks of how terrible Grenada are, or how good Jamaica are.  Probably neither.  Jamaica have a long way to go to reach their last days of glory, and no one in that team is wow-ing me.  The goals were increasingly impressive as the game went on, but there was a point where even they stopped caring.  Grenada are the new kids on the block, competing in only their second Gold Cup, and will be lucky to escape with anything greater than zero in the points column.  The Central American teams they face next will eat them alive, I’m afraid.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEAzcxGkHps

11:00 pm EST – Honduras v. Guatemala (0:0)

First half: What the h!  We got ourselves the first real match of the Gold Cup!  A well-paced, rather even first half with Honduras players and management looking surprised by the energy and attacking form from Guatemala.  Both sides had scoring chances.  Lovely!  0-0.

Second half: A poor decision by the referee in the 16th minute, issuing a second yellow and sending of Guatemala’s Cabrera, changed things.  The match got exceedingly uglier and Guatemala found themselves down another man for the 4oth of the half.  (Jamaica was thrilled, I’m sure.)  Overall the story here is the failure of Honduras, an expected semi-finalist, to get a result against what is thought to be an inferior opponent.

Bryan’s Take: I was looking forward to a match being competitive for once in the Gold Cup, and the first half gave me that, particularly with the best chance from Honduras, rattling the crossbar and making what terrible commentators called a “butt save”.  Guatemala looked much more threatening, but the second half turned into a clinic in how a game can break down.  The first red card for Guatemala sent the game into a frenzy of sloppy play, physicality, diving and milking calls.  The second sending off was equally harsh (a second yellow), and still, Guatemala looked the more threatening with nine.  Honduras never looked dangerous, even with the two-man advantage, and will really miss a penetrating attacker like David Suazo.  This team may be in trouble, making it out of a very, very weak group.

Day One – June 5

Costa Rica handled Cuba 5-0 in a match that ultimately tells us very little about Costa Rica’s staying power over the duration of the tournament.  They should be disappointed with anything less than a semi-final appearance but we’ll know more about them after they’ve seen the Mexicans.  Mexico thoroughly handled an overwhelmed El Salvador side that must be disappointed with their second half effort.  Another 5-0 victory.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1ulGYnWqns

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