2015 Gold Cup — Group C preview: Hobbled Mexico still favorites over Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba

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In 2013, the last time CONCACF held it’s biannual continental competition, the US national team was placed in the easiest of three groups, and capitalized on said fortune by lifting the Gold Cup trophy at the end of July. Fast forward four years, and it’s the USMNT’s biggest rival for CONCACAF dominance, Mexico, that look to be the beneficiaries of the 2015 Gold Cup’s weakest four-team group.

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Mexico look to be runaway favorites at the top of Group C, but it’s anyone’s guess who’ll come second and who’ll challenge for a place in the quarterfinals as one of two third-place finishers in the group stage. Guatemala and Trinidad and Tobago are the favorites to finish two-three (in either order), while Cuba are once again the great unknown looking to upset the apple cart.

Mexico

“Injuries” is the (unfortunate) word of the week for Mexico, who in the last five days have lost their best defender, Hector Moreno, and assumed starting forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez for the rest of the summer. The pressure is now on Diego Reyes, Miguel Layun and Paul Aguilar to step up at the back, and Andres Guardado, Giovani Dos Santos and Oribe Peralta to shoulder the scoring load. Even without Moreno and Hernandez, this is a team capable of advancing to the final in Philadelphia, but losses that significant levels the playing field for any potential showdown with the US national team.

Best Gold Cup finish: Winners (9 times) — 1965, 1971, 1977, 1993, 1996, 1998, 2003, 2009, 2001
Manager: Miguel Herrera — Up until his side’s current seven-game winless streak, El Tri‘s demonstrative leader has enjoyed a successful and drama-less two years as head coach of Mexico, which culminated with a near-quarterfinal berth at last summer’s World Cup. This is his first crack at the Gold Cup and a real chance to win some silverware.
Star man: Carlos Vela — The Real Sociedad winger is coming off of a somewhat disappointing club season (10 goals in 32 games, down from 21 in 52 the season before), but no matter his club form, Vela always seems to bring it for Mexico. With no more than a handful of national team caps since 2010 (various issues with the national federation and/or head coaches), this is his time to shine and stake claim to his place in the team for the rest of his career.

Guatemala

While a great deal of Guatemala’s talented roster plays its club ball in the relatively unknown Guatemalan league, we all know the names of Carlos Ruiz and Marco Pappa, and we’re quickly getting to know Real Salt Lake’s Elias Vasquez, as well. Nearly the entire midfield plays for the same team, Guatemalan giant Comunicaciones, so Ivan Sopegno’s side will lean heavily on that familiarity and continuity in a group where they’re 50-50 alongside Trinidad and Tobago to come second behind Mexico.

Best Gold Cup finish: Winners — 1967
Manager: Ivan Sopegno
Star man: Marco Pappa — Ruiz is 35 years old now, and while he’ll still have something to say of Guatemala’s chances this summer, it’s Pappa time to shine and lead La Furia Azul out of the group and into their third quarterfinal in eight years.

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Kenwyne Jones, Trinidad and Tobago’s talisman

Trinidad and Tobago

Interestingly enough, Stephen Hart’s roster contains not a single player over the age of 30 (four players are 30, two of which are goalkeepers), though there’s ample international experience within — CONCACAF experience, in particular. 23-year-old winger Joevin Jones (Chicago Fire) is 23 years old, but boasts of 40 senior caps already, while 24-year-old center back Daneil Cyrus has 41 appearances to his name. The Soca Warriors look set to be strong defensively, but could struggle for goals of their own, as only Kenwyne Jones (18) has more than six international goals to his name.

Best Gold Cup finish: Runners-up — 1973
Manager: Stephen Hart
Star man: Kenwyne Jones — The 30-year-old is still kicking around the upper tiers of England following moves from Cardiff City to Bournemouth upon leaving Stoke City. Jones bagged a pair of goals in the 2013 Gold Cup, where T&T bowed out to Mexico in the quarterfinals.

Cuba

Speaking of sides with a dearth of goalscoring prowess, last up we have Cuba. Raul Gonzalez Triana’s side is by far the most inexperienced and accomplished side in this year’s tournament. In 2013, we saw the Leones del Caribe advance out of the group stage by virtue of finishing third, before getting hammered by Panama in the quarters.

Best Gold Cup finish: 4th — 1971
Manager: Raul Gonzalez Triana
Star man: Ariel Martinez — 11 goals in 50 appearances for Cuba gives Martinez the best strike rate on the current roster, and the 29-year-old will need to replicate his hat-trick form of 2013 if Cuba have any hopes of advancing this time around.

Schedule

July 9: Trinidad and Tobago vs. Guatemala — Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
July 9: Mexico vs. Cuba — Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
July 12: Trinidad and Tobago vs. Cuba — University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ
July 12: Guatemala vs. Mexico — University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ
July 15: Cuba vs. Guatemala — Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
July 15: Mexico vs. Trinidad and Tobago — Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC

Prediction

1st — Mexico
2nd — Guatemala
3rd — Trinidad and Tobago
4th — Cuba

U.S. Open Cup: Goals a-plenty as Atlanta, Minnesota advance

Frank de Boer justin Meram Atlanta United
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The first two quarterfinal berths in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup were earned Tuesday with 3-2 away wins.

Columbus Crew 2-3 Atlanta United

A pair of goals from Brandon Vazquez helped Atlanta United overcome both the Columbus Crew and a 48-minute weather delay.

Miles Robinson also scored for Atlanta, while David Accam bagged a goal for the hosts.

A 71st minute Brad Guzan own goal set up a nervy final 20 minutes for the Five Stripes, but they navigated the obstacles and emerged into the quarterfinals

Atlanta will play the winner of FC Cincinnati and Saint Louis FC.

Houston Dynamo 2-3 Minnesota United

The Houston Dynamo thought they were cruising to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals, and instead just waltzed right out of the tournament.

Up 2-0 at home and at halftime, the Dynamo conceded three times in the final 24 minutes to bow out of the USOC.

The victor, who deserves full marks, is Minnesota United. Darwin Quintero struck twice and Mason Toye scored in the 89th minute as the Loons advanced to play the winner of New Mexico United and FC Dallas. No Texas Derby in the cup this year.

Berhalter names first USMNT Starting XI for Gold Cup

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Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Michael Bradley all start as the United States men’s national team will look a bit more like its best for Tuesday’s Gold Cup opener against Guyana.

The 10 p.m. ET kickoff in Minnesota will see the Yanks without injured Tyler Adams, John Brooks, DeAndre Yedlin, and Sebastian Lletget, but Jozy Altidore has been relegated to the bench — perhaps not fully fit — behind Gyasi Zardes.

[ LIVE: Latest Gold Cup scores, stats, lineups ]

The back line will see Nick Lima, Walker Zimmerman, Aaron Long, and Tim Ream, while Bradley, McKennie work atop them.

Paul Arriola and Tyler Boyd will be out wide, with Christian Pulisic central underneath Zardes.

The substitutes are Sean Johnson, Tyler Miller, Omar Gonzalez, Wil Trapp, Jordan Morris, Reggie Cannon, Cristian Roldan, Daniel Lovitz, Jozy Altidore, Jonathan Lewis, Matt Miazga, Djordje Mihailovic.

[ MORE: Mata staying with Man Utd ]

Chinese club reportedly offers $15M contract to Newcastle’s Benitez

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It would be peak Newcastle United of recent seasons to lose their coach to a squabble over the sort of players the manager wants to sign.

Rafa Benitez‘s contract expires at the end of this month, and he makes decent money at St. James’ Park, but his $6 million pales in comparison the money being offered by a Chinese Super League club.

[ MORE: Mata staying with Man Utd ]

Benitez wants to stay at Newcastle, but his concerns aren’t about his wages as much as being allowed to build a contender under stingy owner Mike Ashley. With the team possibly getting a takeover, Benitez is not guaranteed the chance to improve his roster. Not to mention Newcastle operates under club-wide restrictions.

Sky Sports says, “the former Liverpool, Chelsea and Valencia boss wants to be given the green light to sign players over the age of 26, which has been against club policy in previous years.”

Sky Sports reports that Benitez is mulling a $15 million offer from Dalian Yifang, the CSL team currently sitting in 11th place under former South Korea national team manager Kang-hee Choi.

Dalian Yifang currently employs transfer rumor mainstay Yannick Carrasco, as well as Marek Hamsik and young Ghanaian striker Emmanuel Boateng.

If Newcastle allows Benitez to leave and the takeover is not completed, it would be the most embarrassing thing for the club since Joe Kinnear couldn’t pronounce half of his players’ names. That’s saying something.

Gold Cup LIVE – USMNT meets Guyana after Panama, T&T tangle

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Gregg Berhalter’s shaky USMNT welcomes several of its star players into the fold when it kicks off its 2019 Gold Cup campaign against Guyana on Tuesday.

[ LIVE: Latest Gold Cup scores ]

The match comes 2.5 hours after one between the two sides which conspired to keep the Yanks out of the 2018 World Cup.

While the USMNT played the biggest role in that monumental failure, Trinidad and Tobago is the team that beat the Yanks in Couva on the same night that Panama scored a ghost goal to push the U.S. into fifth in the Hex.

Guyana has lost to Haiti, Bermuda, and French Guiana in the last eight months, and it would be stunning if the U.S. didn’t post a generous amount of goals on the scoreboard even after miserable efforts against Jamaica’s B team and Venezuela.

Panama and T&T, on the other hand, should be a beauty, with Los Canaleros getting a bit older in the tooth and the Soca Warriors maturing a bit as a side.

Panama and T&T kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET, with the USMNT expected to kickoff with Guyana a little after 10 p.m.