2015 Gold Cup – Group B preview: Costa Rica’s to clash with Canada, Jamaica, El Salvador

Leave a comment

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.

[ RELATED: Group A preview | Gold Cup news ]

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.

Costa Rica

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

Jamaica

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.

source:
Cyle Larin could be the key to Canada’s success.

Canada

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.

El Salvador

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.

Schedule

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

Prediction

1st – Costa Rica
2nd – Jamaica
3rd – Canada
4th – El Salvador

Barcelona sign Neto in goalkeeper swap with Valencia

Getty Images
Leave a comment

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Brazilian goalkeeper Neto will sign a four-year contract with the Spanish champions.

The transfer completes a swap a day after Barcelona sold Jasper Cillessen to Valencia.

Barcelona says it is paying 26 million euros ($29.5 million) plus possibly another 9 million euros ($10.2 million) in variables for Neto. Valencia paid Barcelona 35 million euros ($40 million) for Cillessen.

Neto will replace Cillessen, who played as a backup for Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the Champions League and the Spanish league and only regularly started in the Copa del Rey.

The 29-year-old Neto helped Valencia qualify for the Champions League with a fourth-place finish for the past two seasons in Spain. He also played in Italy at Juventus as a backup to Gianluigi Buffon and at Fiorentina after starting at Brazilian club Paranaense.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

USMNT v. Panama: Three things we learned

Getty Images
2 Comments

It wasn’t always pretty, but the U.S. Men’s National Team eked out a 1-0 win over Panama in Kansas City, Kan. on Wednesday night to win its group. Jozy Altidore scored the game’s only goal in stunning fashion, finishing an overhead kick to put Panama away and set up a quarterfinal bout with Curacao on Sunday evening.

Here are three of the biggest takeaways from Wednesday’s win:

[READ: All the latest USMNT news here]


Jozy Altidore is still the best we’ve got

Many U.S. Men’s National Team fans have called for the forced retirements of Altidore and Michael Bradley, among many others, after the debacle that was the last World Cup cycle.

Until tonight, Altidore wasn’t in the USMNT picture, in part due to Dave Sarachan using younger players and Altidore continuing to suffer a series of muscle injuries since October 2017. And yet, if tonight’s game showed anything in Altidore’s 83 minutes on the pitch, it’s that he’s still the best option for the USMNT up top. While Gregg Berhalter clearly prefers Gyasi Zardes right now based on their previous work history together in Columbus, Zardes doesn’t have the strength or skill that Altidore does. It’s hard to imagine Zardes executing an overhead kick and it going in as sweetly as Altidore did.

What does this mean going forward? Regardless of if Zardes starts the rest of the way, Berhalter knows that he has Altidore always around who can give the U.S. a goal, especially on home soil and when fit. But it also lays the marker down for Zardes, Tim Weah, Josh Sargent and the other up and coming strikers that this is the level they need to meet, and beat, if they want to break into the starting lineup under Berhalter.

There’s speed to burn on the wings

It may not have had a huge impact on Wednesday, but in bringing Tyler Boyd and Christian Pulisic off the bench, Berhalter showed exactly why he’s brought so many speedy skill players along the wings.

While Jordan Morris and Jonathan Lewis couldn’t figure out the final pass or final touch in the box to score a goal, just their presence for 65-70 minutes tired out the backline, and the introductions of Pulisic and Boyd could have really unlocked the Panama defense. While it didn’t totally work on Wednesday, it could in the later stages of the tournament, especially in a potential rematch with either Panama or Jamaica in the semifinals and Mexico in the finals.

With Lewis and Morris likely available off the bench, that adds a new piece opponents have to worry about, both in terms of speed and dribbling ability.

Few impressed in a chance to earn a starting spot

It’s been nearly two years since the debacle in Trinidad and Tobago, and yet aside from maybe Matt Miazga or Nick Lima, there have been very few players who have done much to impress and prove they’re better than the previous cycle’s players. That continued on Wednesday with an MLS-heavy lineup. Wil Trapp, a midfielder with so much promise a few years ago, appears to have stalled. He had multiple turnovers and certainly didn’t look as sharp as Michael Bradley.

While Lewis and Morris have plenty of pace, their final pass was woeful and they didn’t do themselves any favors. Djordje Mihailovic was never going to push Pulisic out of the starting lineup, but Mihailovic didn’t exactly do enough to say that he should be the first man off the bench either, or to push Pulisic into a wing role with Mihailovic in the middle.

Aside from Matt Miazga and Omar Gonzalez in the middle, along with Altidore up top, no one in the lineup really did enough through the first 65 minutes to warrant another start in the tournament. It’s yet another disappointment as young players get chance after chance to prove they belong as starters, only to waste the opportunity, enabling the veterans to keep their role. More players need to keep pushing for those spots, whether through club form or national team performances. Otherwise, we’ll end up in the same situation as before.

 

USMNT remains perfect, tops Panama to win group (video)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

In his first start since the U.S. Men’s National Team’s infamous defeat to Trinidad and Tobago, Jozy Altidore showcased his strength, speed and technical ability to help lead the U.S. to victory.

Altidore’s outstanding bicycle kick goal proved to be the difference in a sometimes dour game as the USMNT topped Panama, 1-0, Wednesday evening at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan. The win kept the U.S. perfect through the Gold Cup group stage with no goals allowed, and it has somewhat erased the memory of the USMNT’s horrible run-up to the tournament, with defeats to Jamaica and Venezuela now firmly in the rear-view mirror.

[MUST-SEE GOAL: Jozy Altidore]

With the win, both teams head to Philadelphia for the quarterfinals this Sunday. Panama plays the undercard matchup against Jamaica while the USMNT faces Curacao.

Coming off two wins to open the Gold Cup, Berhalter decided to use a completely changed starting lineup, featuring ten players from MLS teams along with Chelsea loanee Matt Miazga. Although there was some familiarity of the players on the field, it was at times a very poor match, with the USMNT struggling badly in the final third and even turning the ball over at midfield or leading the attack.

Despite winning the possession battle, 62-38, the USMNT didn’t do much with it. Jordan Morris and Jonathan Lewis, both of whom were subbed out, struggled on their crosses after beating a defender. The pair provided energy and hard running defensively but it didn’t lead to many chances. Altidore had the best of the first half when he was played into the box, but his strike from the right just went wide of the net.

In the 65th minute, Berhalter tried to inject some life in the game with the introduction of Christian Pulisic. It turned out a goal could come just after, but without the intervention of Pulisic.

Djordje Mihailovic drilled the corner kick to the far post where it was met by the head of Matt Miazga who sent it back towards goal. A missed clearance from Panama popped the ball up in the air above the back post, allowing Altidore the time he needed to lift off the ground and bicycle kick it in for the game’s only goal.

Berhalter later brought on both Tyler Boyd and Gyasi Zardes off the bench to try and score an insurance goal, but Panama’s defense held strong and the U.S. failed to threaten the rest of the way. However, the U.S. backline kept a third-consecutive clean sheet and key players such as Michael Bradley got the entire game off to rest before likely returning to the lineup this weekend.

 

 

Must-See Goal: Jozy Altidore puts USMNT in front with Bicycle Kick

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jozy Altidore put his stamp on the game and gave U.S. Men’s National Team coach Gregg Berhalter more to speak about with one fell swing.

Altidore finished off a corner kick in spectacular fashion, executing a perfect bicycle kick to put the USMNT up 1-0 in the 66th minute. The goal came one minute after the entrance of Christian Pulisic, which perhaps was on the mind of the Panama defense.

It was Altidore’s second-straight game vs. Panama with a goal. His last two were in October 2017, when the U.S. pummeled Panama, 4-0. Of course, a few days later, a tired USMNT failed to win at Trinidad and Tobago.