Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Gold Cup unfairness

I love my USA team and I love the Gold Cup. I enjoy the Gold Cup as much as the World Cup. What I am disgusted in is when ref's take the game away from other teams. The USA and Mexico got a few calls during the 2007 Gold Cup. Here are a few bad calls

This first one is Canada and Deportivo La Coruna midfielder Julian De Guzman is sent flying by American defender Carlos Bocanegra during the Gold Cup 2007. Bocanegra should have been red carded.


How about the off side call against Canada that was not off sides. This ensured a USA victory.


3 Costa Rica players were red carded against Mexico and 2 Panama players were red carded against MExico.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Gold Cup should expand to 16 with guess teams

The CONCACAF teams have not done to well at the international level (World Cup results). This has hurt the image of CONCACAF as a top confederation. FIFA president Sip Blatter has been hinting at taking a CONCACAF spot and giving it to CAF. Writer Noah Davis who covers US National for Goal.com claims in his Sept 26, 2008 piece that CONCACAF does not deserve 3.5 World Cup slots. I attest this negative image to the fact that CONCACAF teams have not faired well at the World Cups. I believe the reason has been the lack of competition within CONCACAF. There are a few good teams at the top but there is a big drop off after that. CONCACAF teams have to play top competition in competitive tournaments. The Gold Cup is a perfect tourney to play other teams from different confederations. The Gold Cup should go back to inviting 2 guest teams. Guess teams create a much more exciting Gold Cup for a number of reasons. First, expansions would increase CONCACAF participation from 12 to 14 teams. Group play would be more balanced, unpredictable and more significant. Finally guest teams would provide much needed competition to the tournament. Playing and beating World Class teams in meaningful tournaments would raise the image of CONCACAF. This competition would also better prepare CONCACAF teams for World Cup soccer.

Increase participation of CONCACAF teams
CONCACAF is made up of 40 members but only 12 nations get to play in their regional tournament. This is an injustice that other members can not participate in their regional tournament. The World Cup USA was a huge boost to soccer in states in 1994. Participating in any World Cup is a boost for the profile of the sport in any country that fields a team. Regional tournament like the Gold Cup also raises the awareness and interest of the sport of participating nations. Expanding the tournament to 16 team’s will increases CONCACAF participation from 12 teams to 14 teams. Fringe teams like Haiti, Cuba and Martinique that have made the tournament in the past would have a realistic of making the tournament on a consistent basis. This would give each country something to shoot for every 2 years. This tournament could showcase their country national team and provide essential exposure to their domestic league. Nicaragua will play in their first ever Gold Cup and the nation is abuzz. "It's an unbelievable thing for a team like Nicaragua," said head coach Otoniel Olivas. "It's as if we're going to the World Cup!" This is Nicaragua chance to capitalize on its national team’s success and grow its weak domestic league. This would also open the door for other nations like Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Guyana who also have never made the Gold Cup. Puerto Rico just started a soccer league in 2008 and participation in the Gold Cup could provide a huge boost to the interest to the game for the large Caribbean island. Guyana and the Dominican Republic are 2 sleeping giants within CONCACAF that could soon compete with the elite of their region.

Increase the Importance of Group play
Expansion to 16 teams would also increase the significance of group play. Presently group play only knocks out 4 teams in the 12 team tournament. A 16 team format would only have the top 2 teams of each group advancing. This immediately put more emphasis on each group play game. Every game becomes that much more crucial.
CONCACAF is top heavy and the top teams are not challenged in group play. The top teams need equally talented teams to play that just can not be found in CONCACAF. Nations like Republic of Ireland, Poland and Italy from EUFA. These Euro teams have excellent national teams and could also provide a great fans base here in the states. Cameroon, Nigeria and S Africa from CAF would also provide interest. These African teams will be highly visible in World Cup South Africa and could give the Gold Cup a taste of African soccer which is very direct and rugged. Colombia and Ecuador have participated in the past and also provided the Gold Cup with entertaining soccer. Colombia even made it to the Gold Cup Final on year. CONMEBOL nations bring creativeness and flair to the game. These guess teams would bring a real World Cup feel to the Gold Cup.

Create more balanced groups
Two of these guest teams can be placed in group play with either USA or Mexico. We all know USA, Mexico and Costa Rica will advance to the knock our round in the present set up. Grenada and Haiti just do not strike fear into the top teams like a World Cup participant would. Guess teams would provide more balanced groups. IT was Brazil and Colombia who knocked the yanks out of 2 Gold Cups. Mexico was also knocked out by Peru and Republic of Korea. These guess teams will provide the unpredictability and excitement the Gold Cup needs. This would give all CONCACAF teams better competition right from the start in group play. We could finally have a real “Group of death” within our own Gold Cup.
CONCACAF nations could also see how our nations stack up against other federations outside CONCACAF. Many of our teams do not participate in the World Cup and it would be a great chance to see how they fair against the different styles of competition. Panama beat S Africa and Colombia in 2005 and those victories propelled Panama soccer status. This is the exposure guess teams can provide

Lack of Competition
One of the main reasons to invite guess teams is to provide badly needed competition to the tournament. We do not have to look any further than the most recent World cup Qualifying. In the first round Suriname beat Montserrat 7-1, Grenada beat US Virgin Islands 10-0 and El Salvador pounded Anguella 16-0 aggregate. The second round still has non competitive games. The USA just beat Barbados 9-0 aggregate, Mexico matched the beating and pounded Belize 9-0, Guatemala smacked St Lucia 9-1 aggregate and a mediocre Canada team slammed St Vincent 7-1 aggregate. The final 12 on qualifying should have been close however there is still a huge gap in the talent in CONCACAF. Three teams (Canada, Haiti and Suriname) did not even win a game in the Final round even when they played at home. Canada is always in CONCACAF’s top 12 and they automatically qualify for the Gold Cup. Haiti made this year Gold Cup and Gold Cup 2007 and they could not win a game. Costa Rica was a complete 6-0 with 20 GF and only 3 GA in their semi-final group play. The US was 5-1 record with 14 GF and 3 GA. (The US played its B team its last 2 game since they already qualified). The competition of the final 12 teams in CONCACAF for World Cup Qualifying is just not there.
To go a step further we see that USA and Mexico have dominated Gold Cup play. Each nation has won 4 Gold Cups apiece. The USA has a 33 wins and only 5 losses. Mexico has 27 wins and 6 losses. Between them their record is a staggering 60 wins and 11 losses. However, of the 11 loses only 2 came against other CONCACAF teams. It was the guess teams that challenged and knocked out the top teams in CONCACAF out. The yanks were beaten by Mexico twice, Brazil twice and Columbia. Mexico was knocked out by Yanks twice, Korea Republic, Peru and Canada and the (Honduras posted Mexico’s other loss). The guess teams have the Gold Cup very unpredictable and exciting. Do not think that other CONCACAF teams can not beat the foreign teams. Costa Rica dispatched Republic of Korea in 2002 and Canada knocked out Columbia in the final in 2000. Panama had a double foreign knockout of S Africa and Columbia in 2005.These were great memorable games that each nation can be proud of.

Here is a look at what groups could look like.
Group A- (Mexico, S Africa, El Salvador and Jamaica )
Mexico would still be the favorite here. Their green shirts and red socks are famous for providing excellent soccer. They are a 4 time Gold Cup winner. They garnish the most media attention and they have a number of international stars. They have been the CONCACAF power for years and can pack any stadium in the states. Jamaica is the reigning Caribbean Champion will provide a never back down attitude. They have great fans who demand a lot. El Salvador was shown tremendous growth and interest from it fans after getting through the semi-finals and making the Hex. El Salvador could represent Central America in this group. S Africa is the guest nation and they will greatly spice up group play and challenge to top teams here. We could see how each of our regions stacks up against a CAF national team in So Africa.

Group B – (Costa Rica, Guatemala, Trinidad, Cuba )
This group could pit 2 top Central American teams against 2 Caribbean powers. Costa Rica would be a favorite here. They have been the Central American regional power for years on both the club and national level. They have international stars in FW Saborio, MF Walter Ceneino and Carlos Hernandez (La Galazy) to look for. Trinidad & Tobago has been the Caribbean regions top power for a decade. They also have their international stars in FW Stern John and FW Sunderland’s Kenwyne Jones who are big and can score with little space. Guatemala would be a team that might not make a 12 team tourney but would make a 16 team field. Their exposure in such a tournament could enhance their domestic league. Cuba has been fielding good teams on both the youth and senior levels. They are starting to become a very consistent top team in the Caribbean. This would be a highly competitive group.

Group C – (Honduras, Canada, Guyana, Haiti)
This group would have a nation from each of the 3 CONCACAF regions represented here. Honduras would be the favorite team here with top quality players in FW David Suazo, Edgar Alvarez (Pisa Calcio) and DF Ivan Guerrero (Rapids). Canada plays an organized defensive style with their big athletic players. They resemble a European style and they would challenge for the top spot. There would be 2 teams from the Caribbean in Haiti and Guyana. Both of these teams would benefit from the expansion to 16 teams. The Jaguars from Guyana is a nation from the soccer mad South American continent. Haiti won the Caribbean Cup in 2007 and has come a long way in recent times. The Gold Cup is where they can show case their talent. They have many fans here in America that will support their country.

Group D - (USA, Nigeria, Panama, and Guadeloupe)
The USA would showcase this group. The Yanks have won the Gold Cup 4 times and are the defending Champs. Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley and Tim Howard would be the players to watch. If they do not advance it would be a real upset in this group. Nigeria and Panama could challenge them for the top spot in this group. Panama is the reigning Central American Champion and have stars in G Jamie Penedo and FW Perez. Nigeria is one of the top teams from the African continent and fans could bring their very direct and fast style to the group. Guadeloupe would not be counted out of this at all. They play very organized and are opportunistic on offense. The have played very well from 2006 Caribbean Cup, 2007 Gold Cup and 2008 Caribbean cup. This French department brings very passionate fans. We could be treated to another French international star like J Angloma dazzled us in 2007.

Guest teams would greatly enhance the Gold Cup. First Concacaf nations would increase from 12 teams to 14 teams. 2 more 2 teams could play in the Gold Cup. The guess teams would create more balanced groups and challenge everyone on group play. The gold Cup could more away from the ridiculous 12 team format where only 4 teams get knocked out in the group stage. There would be more of an emphasis in group play that is lacking now. This action would prepare all CONCACAF teams for the cut throat action of the World Cup. We could also see how our (CONCACAF) teams stack up against other federations. It would create more interest both with in CONCAFCAF and to the other federations that have a team playing. This would also get all teams ready for the intensity of the World Cup matches. World Class teams like Cameroon, Ireland, Nigeria and Italy could legitimize our federation. It would prove we could play with the top teams in the world. I might even save our 3.5 CONCACAF spots which is most important. I vote in favor of expanding the Gold Cup with guest teams.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Gold Cup teams are set

GROUP A: Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Jamaica

Canada They are making their 9th appearance on the Gold Cup. This will be their 6th Gold Cup in a row. They claimed their first ever international tournament in 2000 winning the Gold Cup against Columbia 2:0 in the Finals in LA California. They are the only other CONCACAF team to win the Gold Cup besides (USA-Mexico). They reached the semi-finals in 2007 event losing to eventual Champion USA 2:1. They are under the guidance of ________.

Costa Rica The Tico’s will be in their 9th Gold Cup and 7th in a row. Their best performance was in 2002 where they beat Trinidad and Tobago and Korean Republic in the knockout phase. The Tico’s made the Finals in 2002 losing to the host 2:0 in Pasadena California. They also advanced to back to back semi-finals in 1991 and 1993. They were knocked out in the quarterfinals in 2007 to Mexico in a very physical and bitter match. They have Costa Rican Rodrigo Kenton at the helm.

El Salvador They will be playing in their 6th Gold Cup. This will be their second in a row. They El Sal is one of 4 direct qualifiers from UNCAF. They have a young team and are flying high with the team’s participation in the Hex. They reached the quarterfinals in 2003 losing to regional rival Costa Rica. They did not make the knockout round in 2007 and will be looking for redemption.

Jamaica The Reggae Boyz will be playing in their 7th Gold Cup. They earned one on the 4 spots designated to the Caribbean region. They qualified by winning the 2009 Caribbean Cup 2:0 against Grenada in Kingston Jamaica. The Reggae Boyz reached the semi-finals on 2 occasions (1993, 1998). They have made the knockout round 4 out of 6 times they participated in the Gold Cup.

This group will feature a team from each of the 3 regions in CONCACAF. There will be 2 Central American teams battling for the top spot. Canada almost automatically goes into this group since they are the other North American "north" team. Canada and Costa Rica seem to always be place in a group together. This is the 6th time the 2 nations have been placed in the same group. This game has turned into a great rivalry. Costa Rica will be a favorite to advance. Canada crashed out of the World Cup Qualifying with no wins and their team will be looking for redemption in the Gold Cup. They play like a European team with big athletic players playing a well organized defensive scheme. Jamaica is still spitting mad they did not qualify for the 2009 Hex and the last Gold Cup. They made sure to qualify this time by winning the Caribbean Cup. They are the Caribbean Champion and will challenge for the top spot. El Salvador can not be counted out. They are in the Hex and their team is brimming with confidence. I can already hear the fans of these nations claiming they have the "Group of Death". This will be the tightest contested group.
Prediction 1. Costa Rica 2 Jamaica

Group B Grenada, Haiti, Honduras, USA

USA The defending Gold Cup Champion. They have won the last 2 Gold Cup and 3 of the last 4. They will be playing in their 10th Gold Cup in a row. They are under the direction of Bob Bradley. The Yanks have never lost a group stage match in the Gold Cup. Their last Gold Cup loss was a 2:1 defeat to Brazil in 2003 semi-finals in Miami Orange Bowl. They have the best Gold Cup record with 33 wins and 5 loses and 1 ties.

Honduras They will be making their 9th Gold Cup. This is their 4th Gold Cup in a row. They are one of 4 qualifiers from the Central America by coming in 3rd in UNCAF Cup in Honduras. They only missed one Gold Cup in 2002. They reached the quarter finals in 2007 and the Semi-finals in 2005. They will be led by Columbian Reynaldo Reuda. Their best performance was Gold Cup in 1991. They reached the finals in the inaugural event losing in a shootout to the host (USA) at LA Memorial Coliseum.

Haiti Are back for their second straight and 4th overall Gold Cup. Les Grenadiers is their nickname. They are one of 4 qualifiers from the Caribbean region. They won the Caribbean Cup in 2007 in Trinidad and Tobago against the host in Port of Spain. Their best Gold Cup performance was making the quarter finals in 2002. They are led by Jairo Rios a Columbian. Haiti best performance was in 2002 made it to the knockout round.

Grenada The Spice Boy will be playing in their first ever Gold Cup. They qualified as one of 4 Caribbean regions slots. They came in second in the 2009 Caribbean Cup. They lost to the host Jamaica 2:0. Both goals were scored on penalty kicks. They will be the smallest country ever to participate in the Gold Cup. They will be wearing bright green or yellow shirts with red socks. Noris Wilson is the coach and he is from Grenada.
They are looking to upset the hierarchy of CONCACAF powers.

Group B will feature the host USA. They will travel to the newest MLS venue Seattle on July 4th against Grenada. Grenada will have no chance in this game since it is on the USA birthday and fans will cheer for the host. Then the group travels to the nations Capitol and plays Honduras at RFK. Honduras will have plenty of fans and it will be interesting who will bring more fans. This should be a great game. The group will then travel to Gillette Stadium and play Haiti. If Haiti had any chance against the USA it would have been in an early game. The USA dept and Haiti lack of dept, due to all the traveling, will propel the yanks past Haiti. The USA will also make the knockout round. Honduras will challenge the USA in group play however after 3 group play games the USA will emerge on top even with their B side playing. Grenada did not score that much in the Caribbean Cup so the will look to advance as a #2 or #3 from Group B. Haiti just do not have enough of their federation backing them to prepare enough to threaten for the top spot in the group. Their fans are great though.
Prediction 1 USA 2 Honduras

Group C Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Guadeloupe

Mexico One of only 2 teams that have played in all 9 previous Gold Cups. They were they first team to capture 3 consecutive Gold Cups (1993, 1995, 1998). They are led by Mexican coach Javier Aguirre. Mexico has scored the most goals of any team at 88 goals for and only 27 against. They are a 4 time Champion.

Nicaragua This will be Nicaragua’s first ever Gold Cup. UNCAF has 4 direct qualifiers and the last spot is a playoff game against the 2 3rd place finishers from the UNCAF Cup groups. They qualified by winning the one game playoff against regional power Guatemala and winning 2:0 to claim the last spot in the Gold Cup. They coach is a Nicaraguan Otoneil Olivas who guided them through their most successful UNCAF Cup in 2008.

Panama They are the winners of the UNCAF (Central American) Cup in 2009. This was their first international Championship ever. They will be participating in their 5th Gold Cup and 3rd in a row. They make the quarterfinals in 2007 losing to the host. Their best Gold Cup performance was the 2005 when they reached the Finals. They again played the host (USA) to a draw only to lose in penalties. They also beat S Africa and Columbia in the knockout phase that year. They are under the guidance of Panamanian Gary Stempel.

Guadeloupe They will be playing in their second ever Gold Cup and 2 in a row. They had a fabulous start in their Gold Cup 2007. They made it all the way to the semi finals where they lost to Mexico 1:0. They were the Cinderella story of the tournament and are looking to prove they are a consistent top team in CONCACAF. They can not qualify for FIFA World Cup so this is the top tournament this French department shoots for.

Concacaf needs Mexico to advance in the Gold Cup so Nicaragua (the weakest teams) was placed with them. Mexico still has its work cut out since the UNCAF Champions Panama. The Canaleros will challenge for the top spot in Group C. Mexico is sure to make the Knockout round from this group. I see all teams getting a win against Nicaragua so I believe 3 teams will advance from this group. Guadeloupe has shown consistency from the 2006 Caribbean Cup the 2007 Gold Cup and the 2008 Caribbean Cup. They are well organized and opportunistic on offense. They are a good team to watch. They will be looking for payback to Mexico for it’s loss in the semi-finals in 2007. Nicaragua will be playing like this is their World Cup. The team is making it’s first ever appearance so they want to make a good impression and not get embarrassed. I will be pulling the Nicaragua and hope they play well.
Prediction 1. Mexico 2 Panama
The other 2 teams I think will nake the knockout round are Canada and Guadeloupe. Canada is a strong team and I think will beat El Salvador and get a point from Costa Rica or Jamaica. Guadeloupe will beat Nicaragua so they have to get a point from Mexico or Panama.
Darkhorse will be either Haiti or Grenada. So the big game in the tournament will be this Group B match. The fringe teams will hope they tie each other to knock eachother out with only 1 point with 2 loses. Who ever wins could get through with goals