The 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup is right around the corner and this year’s tournament looks to be one for the ages. It may not be as glamorous as the World Cup, but the 2015 Gold Cup features plenty of star power and a trip to the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup for the winner.
Here’s a quick look at all 12 teams involved in the competition with an analysis of key players and a breakdown of the good and bad of each team.
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
The Good: The United States returns to Gold Cup action as the defending champions. They have been great recently with wins over Germany, the Netherlands, Guatemala and Mexico. This U.S. squad features veterans such as Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey. Also in the mix are young players like DeAndre Yedlin, Gyasi Zardes, John Brooks and Fabian Johnson. The U.S. is a favorite to win the cup this year, and if it does, it will punch an automatic ticket to the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.
The Bad: This year the U.S. is in Group A, which is arguably the hardest group in the competition including: Honduras, Haiti and last tournament’s runner-up Panama. It will not be easy for the U.S., but the team should be able to win the group decisively.
Key Player: Michael Bradley
Bradley has been in great form recently. In wins against Germany and the Netherlands, Bradley was arguably the best player on the field. At the right position, Bradley can deliver great passes down the field and also control the tempo of the game from the midfield. He is a constant threat on offense and can create great goal-scoring opportunities on the break. Bradley is currently at his peak and poised to have a great tournament. He could even lead the U.S. to a second consecutive championship.
Head Coach: Hernán Darío Gómez
The Good: Over the past few years, Panama has grown into a strong and competitive team. While it is not a team of superstars, Panama is composed of solid role players who are able to blend well and find success. This Panama squad features several experienced players like Gabby Torres, Blas Perez, Luis Tejada and Jaime Penedo. If Panama plays to its full potential, a second consecutive trip to the finals will not be that far-fetched.
The Bad: In Group A, Panama will have to face a heavily favored U.S. squad. While it is unlikely Panama will beat the U.S., the team can possibly come out as the group’s runner-up. Panama is an older team, so speed on offense and speed on defense may be an issue down the line.
Blas Perez, aka Super Ratón, is Panama’s most important player on offense. In four seasons with FC Dallas, Perez has scored 36 goals in 88 appearances. With Panama, Perez has thrived as a major goal scorer and playmaker. At the age of 34, Perez is not as fast as he used to be, but he’s still aggressive and can be a pain for opposing defenders. In order for Panama to have a shot at making the finals, Perez will have to play his best.
Head Coach: Jorge Luis Pinto
The Good: Honduras has not been playing well recently, but the team has a solid squad that can still manage to do well in Group A. Veterans Andy Najar, Maynor Figueroa and Oscar Boniek Garcia will have to step up for Honduras and provide goals. In the end, it will not be a smooth ride for Honduras but they have the right coach in the driver’s seat. Having led Costa Rica to the quarterfinals as the surprise team of the 2014 World Cup, Coach Pinto may be able to lead Honduras on the same path of success.
The Bad: Honduras was the last team to qualify for the Gold Cup. While it does not help to be in a group with the U.S., it should not come as a surprise if Honduras manages to win a game or two. In order to do this, Honduras will need someone to step up as a reliable scorer, which is something they have not had in a while.
Najar has been vital in Anderlecht’s success for the last two seasons in the Belgian Pro League. Najar will be playing on the wings and will have to do well getting forward if Honduras is going to succeed. Najar has great dribbling ability that could make him a nightmare for defenders. With teams like Tottenham and Arsenal interested in signing him, this tournament will be Najar’s opportunity to showcase his talent on a big stage.
Head Coach: Marc Collat
The Good: Haiti’s best shot at a win will be against an inconsistent Honduras team. Aside from that, it is unlikely Haiti will get any points against Panama or the U.S. Players like Wilde-Donald Guerrier and Jean Sony Alcenat will have to play their finest for Haiti to have any shot at making it out the group.
The Bad: Placed into the “group of death” alongside Panama, Honduras and the United States, Haiti does not have a realistic chance at making to the knockout rounds. It is going to be difficult for Haiti to get any favorable results in this tournament.
Belfort is a strong and physical striker. In the 2014 Caribbean Cup, Belfort was Haiti’s leading goal scorer and won the Golden Boot.Belfort has managed to net 7 goals in 15 appearances with Haiti. He will likely be the go-to-guy for Haiti’s goals in this tournament and if he plays well, he increases Haiti’s chances of getting a point or two in the Cup.
Head Coach: Paulo Wanchope
The Good: Coming off of a surprising run to the quarterfinals in the 2014 World Cup, Costa Rica has shown the world it is not a team of pushovers. They have several talented players on the roster like Joel Campbell and Alvaro Saborio who lead the charge on offense and defenders Christian Gamboa and Giancarlo Gonzalez who hold down the fort on defense. Costa Rica should make it to at least the quarterfinals but at the same time El Salvador, Jamaica and Canada could make things more interesting.
The Bad: Since winning the 2014 Copa Centroamericana, Costa Rica has had difficulty finding wins. Over the past few months Costa Rica has been beaten by Panama, Colombia and Spain. It has also suffered draws to both Paraguay and Mexico. Despite the team’s struggles, Costa Rica still has a squad capable of winning this tournament.
In late June, Costa Rica’s starting goalkeeper Keylor Navas was injured in a friendly against Spain. Navas’ performance in the 2014 World Cup was a key in Costa Rica’s run to the knockout stages. In a recent friendly against Mexico, Esteban Alvarado stepped up and played well, helping Costa Rica salvage a 2-2 draw. Costa Rica will need a reliable goalkeeper to make saves when needed down the stretch. Alvarado’s consistency in goal could prove to be a deciding factor in how far Costa Rica goes in this tournament.
Head Coach: Winfried Schäfer
The Good: With talented players like Simon Dawkins and Alvas Powell, Jamaica should at least make it to the knockout stage. It will not be easy but Jamaica can leave the group with two wins. The team is a real candidate to be the dark horse of the tournament and could make it to the semifinals.
The Bad: The Reggae Boyz head to the Gold Cup with a team similar to the one we saw in the Copa America tournament. In that tournament, Jamaica lost all three of the group stage games by a 1-0 margin. As bad as that sounds, keep in mind that these narrow defeats were to elite South American teams like Uruguay and Argentina. Inexperience could also be an issue for Jamaica considering only two of Jamaica’s players has more than 50 caps
Seaton signed with DC United in 2013 at the age 16. Since then, he’s spent time in the USL and at Örebro SK in Sweden. During his time with the senior national team, Seaton scored two goals in 12 appearances. As a native of Capitol Heights, Maryland, Seaton joined DC United’s youth academy and quickly made his way to the top. It is unknown if he will start for Jamaica, but he can still be a real difference maker coming off the bench.
Head Coach: Benito Floro
The Good: In its last four games, Canada has been able to maintain shutouts with its strong defense. Led by former Real Madrid coach Benito Floro, Canada has the confidence and ability to make it far in the tournament. Players like Cyle Larin, Ashtone Morgan and Tesho Akindele have been doing quite well in the MLS and are sure to be difference makers for Canada in the Gold Cup. Canada’s toughest match in the group stage will be against Costa Rica at home in Toronto. If the team is able to get a good result, it should also be able to do well against El Salvador and Jamaica.
The Bad: In the last few editions of the Gold Cup tournament, Canada has not done very well. Canada struggled to make it past the quarterfinal round since 2009 and have had trouble making it out of the group stage since 2011. Canada has also suffered major injuries to top players like Atiba Hutchinson. It is unclear how these injuries will impact the performance of Canada as a whole.
In his rookie season with Orlando City SC, Larin scored six goals in 13 appearances. At 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, Larin is a physical forward with great speed on the ball. Considering the fact that Canada only has two real forwards on its Gold Cup roster, Larin will have a huge impact on the team’s offense. With his skill, Larin could emerge as the breakout player of the tournament.
Head Coach: Albert Roca
The Good: El Salvador is not the worse team in this tournament but it is not the best either. El Salvador comes into the tournament having beaten Saint Kitts and Nevis and suffered narrow defeats to Argentina, Chile and Honduras. While the team has not been able to score much in friendlies, it has shown consistency on defense. El Salvador will have talented players like Arturo Alvarez, Andres Flores and Darwin Ceren leading the way on offense and if the team is able to score goals efficiently, El Salvador could be the surprise team of the tournament and make it as far as the semifinals.
The Bad: In a group with Canada, Costa Rica and Jamaica, El Salvador could possibly end up not winning a single game, but at the same time, it has the potential to emerge as a surprise contender. El Salvador can defend well, but will need a consistent scorer to compete for this group.
In his first season with Orlando City SC, Ceren was expected to struggle for minutes on a very deep roster. Instead, he’s become a staple of Orlando City’s offense and has shined with his passing ability. He’s been one of the most dynamic midfielders in the MLS this season, and will be a playmaker for El Salvador in the Gold Cup. He can be that spark on offense that El Salvador has needed for quite some time.
Head Coach: Miguel Herrera
The Good: Mexico is in the weakest group in the competition, and will be runaway favorites to win Group C. Based on how the bracket is set up, Mexico will not have a real challenge until the semifinal.
The Bad: Mexico heads into the Gold Cup battling injuries having lost its best defender Hector Moreno and starting forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez for the summer. Without Moreno and Hernandez, several players like Andrés Guardado, Héctor Herrera and Paul Aguilar will have to step up and provide the scoring and defense that Mexico will need to win.
With Hernandez gone with injury, Vela will have to carry the load on offense for Mexico. Vela made his return to the Mexican national team last fall in a friendly against Holland where he scored two goals in a 3-2 win. Vela had not played for the team since 2010, following a suspension and refusal to accept call-ups. Since then, Vela has developed into a productive striker with Real Sociedad, and led the team with nine goals last season. Mexico’s offense will rely heavily on Vela’s scoring ability at the forward position. If Vela can score consistently, Mexico will have no issue reaching the final.
Head Coach: Iván Franco Sopegno
The Good: Guatemala is a solid team composed of experienced players who have played at this tournament before and know what it takes to win. Players Carlos Figueroa and Carlos Ruiz are not as young as they used to be but they can still have a huge impact on offense. Group C is pretty weak so Guatemala should be able make it out of the group, even if it finishes in third.
The Bad: It’s difficult to scout Guatemala, but for the most part, it is clear that the team has not been doing well. Guatemala heads into the Gold Cup with a single win in its last eight games.
At the age of 27, Marco Pappa is in his prime. He is easily the best player for Guatemala. The Seattle Sounders midfielder will have to step up as both a scorer and playmaker for Guatemala. Pappa will have to replicate the success he had at the 2014 Copa Centroamericana, where he was voted the best player. He can give Guatemala a real chance at making it to the knockout rounds.
Head Coach: Raul Gonzalez Triana
The Good: There is no other team in this tournament that is as mysterious as Cuba. The fact that nearly every single player on their roster plays in Cuba makes it difficult for other teams to know what they are going up against.
The Bad: Cuba has struggled to get wins against several teams in the CONCACAF. Most recently, Cuba suffered a 4-1 loss to the New York Cosmos in a friendly. What makes things worse for Cuba is that it will have to go up against Mexico right off the bat. The result of that game could influence how far Cuba goes in the tournament. The team could easily lose to Mexico by four or more goals or Cuba could get a draw, if it gets lucky. If luck is on Cuba’s side, we could possibly see Cuba squeeze out of the group stage.
At the age of 36, Márquez is still a staple for Cuba’s starting 11. He is an experienced player and has been scoring consistently for FC Villa Clara in Cuba. Despite his age, Márquez is still quick on the ball and will likely be an anchor for Cuba’s defense. For Cuba to have any shot at making it to the knockout rounds, Márquez will have to be at his best on both sides of the ball.
Trinidad & Tobago
Head Coach: Stephen Hart
The Good: Trinidad & Tobago should benefit from being in a weak Group C. For starters, the Soca Warriors won’t have to play Mexico until the final group game, which means the team can avoid falling behind in group play early on in the tournament. This will prove to be crucial if Trinidad & Tobago can manage to beat Cuba or Guatemala. The Soca Warriors’ roster is young and inexperienced for the most part. Despite the lack of experienced players, Trinidad & Tobago should still be able to advance to the knockout rounds.
The Bad: The Soca Warriors come into the Gold Cup with little preparation and major struggles with scoring. The last time Trinidad & Tobago picked up a victory was November 2014 against a weak French Guiana squad. Since that game, Trinadad & Tobago has gone scoreless against Cuba, Panama and Jamaica. The team will need someone to step up and provide goals.
Veteran forward Kenwyne Jones will have to step up and provide a spark on offense for Trinidad & Tobago considering the loss of forward Kevin Molino to injury in May. Jones has scored 18 goals in 68 appearances for Trinidad and Tobago and will have to carry a majority of the load on offense in the Gold Cup. Jones has slowed over the years but he still has the size to be a real goal scoring threat.
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