Honduras' Palacios fights for ball with Costa Rica's Ruiz during 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match in San Jose

Breakdown: Let’s take a look at the Gold Cup quarterfinals


With the Gold Cup group stages over and the knockout round to begin this weekend, let’s take a casual glance at what lies ahead.

After the U.S. national team defeated Costa Rica 1-0 last night in Connecticut, the field for the final eight was set.

And this year’s Gold Cup has produced plenty of surprises, including Cuba’s stunning 4-0 win over Belize yesterday which saw them reach the quarterfinals for just the second-time in their history.

The Cubans needed to win by four or more to qualify, and scored the decisive goal in the final minute. Wonderful stuff.

So, who’s playing who? Well, on Saturday a double header takes place at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, with the Cuban heroes taking on Panama. That’s followed by Mexico taking on Trinidad and Tobago for a place in the semifinals.

On Sunday the USA face El Salvador, while a huge clash takes place between old rivals Costa Rica and Honduras. Both games will be played at the M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland.

Now that we know the match ups, what can we expect from this bumper weekend of Gold Cup action?

Panama vs. Cuba

Everything points to a blowout Panama win. But this Cuban side is certainly gutsy after that incredible last-gasp effort (watch below) against Belize. For the first-half against the USA, Cuba held their own and look dangerous going forward so Panama will have to watch out. However anything other than a resounding Panama win would surprise me, as they remain unbeaten in the tournament.

Mexico vs. Trinidad and Tobago

Mexico have been up and down during the Gold Cup but things are starting to come together for Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre’s side. Wins against Canada and Martinique have helped them recover following the defeat to Panama. T&T have Kenwyne Jones up front and will provide a difficult task for El Tri. Upset alert.

USA vs. El Salvador

Klinsmann’s men are cruising after three wins from three following last night’s 1-0 victory over Costa Rica. (watch below) But El Salvador have caused Klinsmann’s men a few problems in the past. Sacha Klejstan scored a last-minute winner when they last met in 2010, and the Yanks had to come from behind to win and tie in the two previous meeting before that. The Salvadorans beat Haiti 1-0 to secure their place in the quarters but the U.S. should win comfortably.

Honduras vs. Costa Rica

When these nations clash there’s often a scuffle and Sunday will be no different. Costa Rica have won 1-0 in the previous two meetings between the teams, and you should expect a tight game in Baltimore. Passion, pride and the will to make the semifinals should make this a pulsating clash between the Central American rivals.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
Leave a comment

Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
1 Comment

Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.