Belize

CONCACAF investigation identifies individual who approached Belize on match-fixing

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A statement released by CONCACAF sent to the masses by Rob Harris of the Associated Press confirms they have positively identified the unnamed man who approached the Belize players about fixing the game against the United States.

The statement thanks Woodrow West and Ian Gaynair (pictured, left) individually for not only turning down the undoubtedly tempting offer but reporting the incident directly to officials.

It is incredibly commendable that these players – who had to hold fundraisers to simply make the trip – not only turned down the offer for a hefty sum of money to fix a match which was by all means hopeless in the first place, but then turned down a subsequent offer to keep quiet.

(MORE: Match-fixers tried to get to Belize players before game with U.S.)

The statement says that CONCACAF has partnered with INTERPOL since the beginning of the 2013 Gold Cup to prevent match fixing, and the international crime fighting organization no doubt had a part to play in this individual investigation as well.

CONCACAF said they held held three seminars with participating countries specifically outlining the dangers of match-fixing and how to prevent it, and obviously they worked in this situation.

Here’s to hoping the organizations come down hard on the man or group that attempted to damage the sport, and three more cheers for Belize for resisting riches to protect the beautiful game.

Match-fixers tried to get to Belize players before game with U.S.

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As Jon Arnold pointed out on Twitter, it’s a bit strange it took us in North America two days to catch on to this story. We’re usually so sensitive about match-fixing, yet news Belize internationals were offered money to lose Tuesday’s game against the United States just started garnering attention today. That anybody would pay Belize to assure a result that was almost pre-destined is beside the point (though an interesting point in its own right). Any type of match-fixing usually sends the engines screaming out of the station.

This time, though, it didn’t. At least, not when the allegations were picked up by Belizean news on Monday. From what appears to be a transcript of 7 News’ on air report:

Fourth, the biggest news coming out of Portland is that an attempt has been made to try and involve Belizean Players Woodrow West and Ian Gaynair in Match fixing – that is he try to get them to throw the game so the US would win. The man first met them in Guatemala, attempted to befriend them – and then called them again in Portland – where he met them at a mall near to the hotel …

From Belize international Ian Gaynair, speaking on camera to News 7:

He started talking that we don’t really stand a chance to beat the U.S so he wanted us to promise him that we would lose the game and that he would give us a large amount of money to change our lives in Belize and to help our families … He saw that my features changed and he saw that we weren’t into it so he got frightened and took out a large amount of money to bribe us, a lot of hundred and fifty dollar bills and threw it at us on the table and told us to keep it and to not say anything and to keep the money. Like I told him, ‘we can’t take that money’ …

So it didn’t happen with Belize, the man eventually frantically offering players $10,000 (or, euros) to keep quiet. Still this is how match-fixing goes down, in general: Find players who have financial incentive to guarantee results, bring them into the system, then you have them hooked. Because once a player’s complicit in one instance of match-fixing or involvement in a greater scheme, gamblers forever have something to hold over them.

Although giving Belizean players money to “throw” a match to the U.S. seems pretty silly, it gets them in the game. What about the Cuba match to conclude group play, one that would allow gamblers to get better odds? Or in some Copa Centroamericana game? Or a World Cup qualifier next cycle? Once you’re in, gamblers always have something to hold over you, a type of penultimate “or else”.

So while this instance seems to have been initiated by the Fredo Corleone of match-fixers, the Belize players still dodged a bullet. A poorly-aimed, figurative, but potentially career-ending bullet.

Gold Cup: Wondolowski hat trick leads U.S. in 6-1 rout of Belize

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PORTLAND, Ore. – The name on his back may have undermined his renown, “Wondowlowski” erroneously ironed onto his jersey, but after 42 minutes on Tuesday at JELD-WEN Field, nobody was talking about the typo scrawled across his shoulders. Instead, the buzz around Chris Wondolowski centered on his second, third and fourth international goals, all scored before halftime, with the reigning Major League Soccer Most Valuable Player lifting the U.S. to a 6-1 win over Belize in their opening match of the 2013 Gold Cup.

Belize’s only goal came the 39th minute, with defender Ian Gaynair heading home a restart to briefly pull the underdogs within one. But building on Wondolowski’s third just before intermission, second half tallies from Stuart Holden, Michael Orozco, and Landon Donovan helped push the U.S. to the top of Group C, their goal difference giving them a tiebreaker advantage over Costa Rica.

The Ticos also sit on three points after winning the night’s opening match, getting two goals from midfielder Michael Barrantes en route to a 3-0 win over Cuba.

(MORE: U.S. player ratings from Tuesday’s win)

Belize, playing in their first major international competition, were expected to offer little resistance to one of the tournament favorites, so it was no surprise when the U.S. dominated play from the opening kick off. Forcing two corner kicks in the first 90 seconds and maintaining over 80 percent of the match’s possession over the first 10 minutes, the Americans quickly pushed their opponents deep into their own end. With the ball rarely in the U.S.’s half,  the Americans appeared destined for a quick break through.

That break through came in 12th minute when left midfielder Jose Torres beat Belize right back Evan Mariano to get a far post cross in from the byline. There, Joe Corona out-jumped his man to head the cross down into the six, where the ball was left for Chris Wondolowski to open the scoring from close range.

(MORE: A few takeaways from the United States’ win)

After another spell of U.S. control, Belize nearly equalized, a freak deflection of a Deon McCauley 24rd minute shot sending the ball looping toward Nick Rimando’s left post. The Real Salt Lake keeper leapt and got a hand to a ball that appeared destined to nail his post.

The U.S. had a number of chances to double their lead near the half hour mark, with Corona firing a ball into Woodrow West’s feet in the 32nd minute before Torres’s 36th minute half volley  went over the bar from six yards out. One minute later, however, a cross from the right from Kyle Beckerman found Wondolowski in middle of the Belize area, his header powered past West to make it 2-0.

Four minutes later, the U.S. gave the goal back. A foul along Belize’s right flank by Landon Donovan gave up a set piece, one converted by a Ian Gaynair header after Elroy Smith found him unmarked just outside Nick Rimando’s six-yard box.

But it was only two minutes until the U.S. restored their lead, with Wondolowski completing his hat trick after diving onto a cross from Corona. Raising this international total to four goals in 13 caps, Wondolowski returned the U.S. to the two-goal lead they’d enjoyed for much of the half, sending his team into intermission up 3-1.

In the 58th minute, the U.S. padded their goal difference when Stu Holden, who had come on for Beckerman at halftime, finished from six yards out, recording his first international goal in four years. Off a far post cross from Corona, Donovan headed down for the still returning midfielder, whose third international goal marked the latest step in his comeback from repeated knee injuries.

For Donovan, it was his 50th international assist, reaching a plateau he passed in goals on Friday with his double against Guatemala. It wasn’t long, through, before the country’s all-time leading scorer added his second assist of the night, his restart from deep on the U.S.’s left flank swinging onto Orozco in the six-yard box, the defender heading home to put the U.S. up four.

In the 77th minute, Donovan added to his scoring record, scoring from the penalty spot after a Belize hand ball, registering his 52nd career goal.

The win leaves the U.S. even on points with Costa Rica at the top of Group C ahead of Sunday’s match with Cuba, but with goal difference being the tournament’s first group stage tiebreaker, the team’s +5 difference leaves the one spot above the Ticos, who beat Cuba by three in the night’s opener.

Preview: US hope to rout minnows Belize in Gold Cup opener

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  • USA and Belize have never played eachother
  • Belize’s population is 335,000, roughly the size of St. Louis
  • Landon Donovan notched his 50th and 51st US goals against Guatemala last week

The US national team will begin their quest for Gold Cup success this evening in Portland, as the host the small Central American nation of Belize. The crowd at JELD-WEN Field are sure to create a raucous atmosphere, as the Timbers Army and American Outlaws go all out to welcome the USA back to Portland for the first-time since 1997.

For Belize, it is their first-ever trip to the Gold Cup, with American coach Ian Mork in charge of the tiny soccer nation. While Jurgen Klinsmann’s much-changed US side are looking to get off to a dominant start in their Group C opener.

Elsewhere in the group, Costa Rica play Cuba which begins at 8:30 pm ET, also up in the Rose City.

Despite the US having a ‘B’ squad available, the Yanks’ reserves should comfortably wipe the floor with the Jaguars. The USA’s diverse roster has several different clusters of players, with experienced pros and young upstarts all looking to edge their way into Klinsmann’s World Cup 2014 plans.

 

(MORE: Which U.S. men may go from Gold Cup to World Cup)

Tuesday night’s clash will mark the first-ever meeting between the US and Belize, while the USA have played in Portland on three prior occasions, grabbing two wins and a draw.

We all remember the demoralizing 4-2 defeat in the 2011 Gold Cup final to Mexico. After racing into a 2-0 lead at the Pasadena Rose Bowl, Bob Bradley’s men imploded in the second half and that was to be his last act as USMNT manager.

After that debacle, only five players who were involved in the 2011 final defeat are included in Klinsmann’s 23-man roster, with veterans Landon Donovan, Clarence Goodson and Oguchi Onyewu all looking to make amends. Despite everyone wanting and expecting Gold Cup success this summer, US fans will be keen to see which players can adapt and morph into a key component of Klinsmann’s new system. Stuart Holden, Mix Diskerud and Jose Torres have shown glimpses that they can force their way into the midfield picture, this Gold Cup is huge for them.

No doubt, the squad assembled will be going flat out to try and better the achievements of the US national teams three wins from three in the recent CONCACAF Hexagonal qualifying round.

After smashing Guatemala for six last time out, Klinsmann’s hybrid squad looked hungry and defiant to stake their claim for the Gold Cup trophy. It all starts in front of the partisan crowd at JELD-WEN Field at 11pm ET this evening on Fox Soccer.

While Belize will simply be hoping to keep the score respectable against the US and Costa Rica in their first group games before meeting their final game against Cuba. They’re ranked No. 130 in the latest FIFA rankings and have only been a member of the governing body at all since 1986.

The Jaguars qualified for this year’s tournament after a fourth-placed finish in the Copa Centroamericana in January, after beating Nicaragua 2-1 in the group stage keyed by Deon McCauley’s injury-time winner. It was Belize’s first Centroamericana win in 23 tries.

Striker McCauley is their biggest hope for success, and he is still the leading scorer in the current CONCACAF World Cup qualifying round with 11 goals, despite Belize crashing out in the second round way back in 2011.

OTHER NOTES: The USA’s biggest win in an international match came against Barbados on June 15, 2008, when the Nats won 8-0. Can they top that tonight?

National team camp convenes amid injury concerns for Ashe, Gatt

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As the U.S. Men’s National Team convenes upon San Diego ahead of July 9’s Gold Cup opener, new injury concerns cast doubt on two players who were expected to play a part in this month’s even. Unfortunately, though U.S. Soccer acknowledged the ailments in today’s update from San Diego, there are few new developments on the injuries to Corey Ashe and Josh Gatt.

Although he went the full 90 yesterday in New York, Ashe (pictured) was left frustrated in the moments after the game, having to be helped from the field by teammates while hobbled with a leg injury. Having joined his national teammates in San Diego, Ashe has been diagnosed with a thigh contusion and is preliminarily classified as day-to-day.

Gatt’s injury could be more serious, though with results of an MRI still pending, it’s impossible to estimate the damage to his knee. The Molde winger was taken from his Saturday league came just before half time and was evaluated on Sunday. His status for the Gold Cup and beyond is still unknown.

The U.S. is scheduled to play Guatemala on Friday, their only friendly before opening the Gold Cup next Tuesday against Belize in Portland. In between, the players will be subject to the training and testing that have characteristic of Jurgen Klinsmann’s camps. How Ashe and Gatt perform in those sessions could dictate their status for the Gold Cup.

Any prolonged absence would be a significant blow for either player, with the potentially three week-long Gold Cup giving each a chance to not only showcase their talents for Klinsmann but also illustrate how they can assimilate into the team environment. While both have been with the team before — Gatt capped twice; Ashe called in for a friendly before leaving with an injury — those were for shorter stints. Gold Cup call ups (as well as stretches like last month’s qualifying process) give players a chance to settle into a routine with the national team staff, a process particularly valuable for inexperienced players.

On the field, the U.S. may not miss either, with Klinsmann and company having a variety of options at their positions. But for the players, the Gold Cup represents a showcase, one that could win them consideration for the last four World Cup qualifiers as well as, in the long run, Brazil 2014.

Given the places Ashe and Gatt occupy in the national team pecking order, the Gold Cup could be the boost needed to get into the World Cup picture. Injuries would be a major setback.