The 2015 Gold Cup kicks off in just a few days as continental glory is on the line.
There is plenty at stake this summer, with the team crowned champions of the CONCACAF region also sealing a spot at the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia. With the U.S., Mexico and Costa Rica all making the knockout stages of the 2014 World Cup, expect this to be a three-way tussle for the title throughout the month of July. But there are plenty of other dark horses lurking in the shadows.
Group B is intriguing with Costa Rica the clear favorites but with perennial “they could be really good this year” teams Canada and Jamaica showing flashes of promise in 2015, and El Salvador an unknown quantity, this promises to be a lot of fun.
After their sensational run to the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup, Los Ticos are many people’s picks for the 2015 Gold Cup title. Without star goalkeeper Keylor Navas through injury, Costa Rica still have plenty of top class talent with Bryan Ruiz pulling the strings in midfield behind Joel Campbell up top and Celso Borges breaking things up. Yeah, Costa Rica will be there or there abouts when the final in Philadelphia rolls around on July 26. That said, they have failed to get past the quarterfinal stage in four of the last five tournaments. Just saying.
Best Gold Cup finish: Winners – 1963, 1969, 1989
Manager: Paulo Wanchope – The legendary Costa Rica striker was assistant coach for the last four years before their World Cup heroics and this is his first tournament as Los Ticos boss. Wanchope has yet to win as boss with three defeats in his first five games in charge.
Star man: Bryan Ruiz – He has 17 goals in 77 games for Los Ticos but paired with Campbell’s pace, his roaming in-between the lines of midfield and attack will cause opponents all kinds of issues
The Reggae Boyz showed plenty of promise in their 2015 Copa America campaign but they lost 1-0 to Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay in group play. Full of players from England and Major League Soccer, there are plenty of familiar names in Jamaica’s roster and head coach Winfried Schafer will be expecting a lot from them this summer. Remember, Jamaica didn’t even qualify for the last Gold Cup in 2013 so their players will be hungry to put that right and put on a good show for their fans back in the Caribbean.
Best Gold Cup finish: Third place – 1993
Manager: Winfried Schafer – The veteran manager has enjoyed steady results since taking over in 2013 but he no doubt needs a strong Gold Cup to keep that momentum going.
Star man: Darren Mattocks – Vancouver’s speedy forward has some great chances for Jamaica in the Copa America but failed to convert them. Expect him to get plenty of opportunities this summer.
In the past two Gold Cups Canada has failed to make it out of the group stage but they will have much bigger expectations this time. Benito Floro is gradually starting to reap the benefits of plenty of talented youngsters and they will likely battle with Jamaica to finish second behind Costa Rica in the group. Four-straight friendly wins going into the competition will give them plenty of confidence and their final group game against Costa Rica is being played in Toronto, so that will help if they need a result.
Best Gold Cup finish: Winners – 1985, 2000
Manager: Benito Floro – Former Real Madrid coach who will be judged on his two-year tenure by how Canada gets on this summer. Plenty of pressure.
Star man: Cyle Larin – This kid is the real deal. Drafted No. 1 by Orlando City in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, now we are starting to see why. In his first seven games for Canada he has three goals and Larin’s speed and power will cause problems. Great talent who is just 20 years old.
La Selecta will be right up there with Canada and Jamaica to try and finish second behind Costa Rica. With a bunch of young talent from FAS and Metapan in their domestic league, head coach Alberta Roca will hope his side get off to a flier against Canada in their opening group game. If that’s the case, expect a youthful El Salvador to grow in confidence.
Best Gold Cup finish: Runners up – 1963, 1981
Manager: Alberta Roca – A former assistant coach at Barcelona, Roca has been in charge of El Salvador since 2014. He will be hoping to match their quarterfinal appearance in 2013.
Star man: Andres Flores – Their skipper and a midfielder for the New York Cosmos, Flores will make everything tick for the central American side.
July 7: Costa Rica vs. Jamaica – StubHub Center, CA
July 7: El Salvador vs. Canada – StubHub Center, CA
July 10: Jamaica vs. Canada – BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, TX
July 10: Costa Rica vs. El Salvador – BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, TX
July 13: Jamaica vs. El Slvador – BMO Field, Toronto, Canada
July 13: Canada vs. Costa Rica – BMO Field, Toronto, Canada
1st – Costa Rica
2nd – Jamaica
3rd – Canada
4th – El Salvador