Saturday, June 27, 2009

Gold Cup Group B Preview

Group B
Grenada, Haiti, Honduras, USA

Group B will feature the defending Champions USA, Central American representative Honduras and two Caribbean teams in Grenada and Haiti. The group will first appear in the newest MLS venue, Qwest Field in Seattle. Two games will be played on July 4th, American’s Birthday. The Yanks will play against Grenada and should have great fans support on this day. I do not see Grenada mounting a consistent attack this day and the Spice Boys will be in for a long day. Honduras should take care of Haiti in the other match. Then the group travels across the country to the nations Capitol and plays at RFK stadium. Honduras has 4 times as many fans (as the Yanks) in Chicago for a World Cup Qualifier earlier in the year. D.C also has a very large Latin American populous. It will be interesting if Honduras fans out number the Yanks fans in our nations Capitol. This game should determine the winner of the group. To me this game could go either way with an edge to Honduras. The other groups will take an interest in Grenada vs. Haiti. Other group’s teams will hope for a tie so neither team will advance to the knockout round. If there is a winner here the winner may go through as a 3rd place team…so the game will have meaning no only to Haiti and Grenada but also the other two groups.

The group then travels up the Atlantic coast to New England’s Gillette Stadium. If Haiti had any chance against the USA it would have been in an early game. The USA’s dept, playing on their home pitch and all the traveling, will propel the Yanks past Haiti. Honduras should take care of Grenada however Sharlie Joseph will have plenty of fans in the stands. Gillette is the home of his Revolution team so he will be very comfortable playing there. Will Grenada be this years Cinderella story!
I see USA with the edge since they will have home field advantage. Honduras will take the runner up spot relying on their experience. Either Haiti or Grenada may go through if the can get a point against the big boys and beat the other in the crucial 2nd game in Washington D.C. Grenada did not score much in the Caribbean Cup but relied on a stout defense. Haiti problem was that they did not play tagether throughout the Caribbean Cup until the final round. Haiti just do not have enough of their federation backing them. Their fans are great though and hopefully they can put on a nice showing.

The Favorite
USA They will be playing in their 10th Gold Cup in a row.. 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 tie. They have won 3 of the last 4 Gold Cups. They are the host and the defending Champions. They are under the direction of Bob Bradley.
They have a very successful Confederations Cup in South Africa and now have to get ready to play the bi-annual Gold Cup. There will only be a few holdovers from that team. This will be mostly a team Bradley wants to evaluate for the World cup 2010. They Yanks need help on the left flank and left Defense. They also want more Forward depth. Bradley wants to evaluate who he can help him starting or the valuable backup spots.
The roster is a split between MLS players and European 2nd tier teams. Their main weakness the team has is this group has never played together. They will have to find cohesion with in the first 3 games or they will be bounced quickly in the knockout round.
Look for Freddy Adu and his great dribbling and attacking skills in the middle. Stuart Holden (Houston) has been given the 10 spot in Houston when they Dynamo let De Rosario go to Toronto FC. This is impressive since Holden is only 23 and possesses veteran skills and a good work rate. They will try to feed the giant at 6-3 Kenny Cooper (FC Dallas) as a target forward. He will be along side the bulldog Charlie Davies the Confederations Cup hero. The left midfield spot will have 2 youngsters battling for Bradley attention in Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew) and Colin Clark (Colorado).
The back line will have a number of ex MLS’er who have moved on to European tier 2 leagues and are trying to make a name for themselves. They are the reigning champs and will play on their home pitch. The defense has to stiffen and the youngsters and veterans have to blend to win this tournament. They are the favorite in this group even with the B team starting. They are playing on their home pitch.

The Dark Horse
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. 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
Honduras national team coach is Columbian Reinaldo Rueda. Their Captain is Carlo Costly (GKS Belchatow-Poland) who is big and powerful. Costly will pair with Walter Pery Martínez and he plays for Deportivo Alves-Spain. Kansas City Wizards midfielder Roger Espinoza (KC Wizards-USA) and Luis Ramos Spartus are the only other foreign players on this roster. The rest come from 4 main teams in Honduras (Marathon-6, Real Espana-5, Motagua-4 and Olimpia-4.
Honduras only warm up game is a match against Panama Sunday June 28th which they won 2:0. The game will be in Raleigh, North Carolina. This venue will help both teams get ready for the venues in the Gold Cup. Honduras almost beat the USA team earlier this year and that was against the Yanks top team. This USA team is the 2nd stringers who have not played together. They get the dark horse spot since the Honduras national program has come a long way in recent times.

The Hopefuls (Haiti – Grenada)
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 when they made it to the knockout round. Haitians want to regain the stature they had when they participated in the 1974 World Cup. They luckily got to this Gold Cup when Cuba withdrew and they won the coin flip against Trinidad and Tobago. They are tall, fast and hard charging. They are individually talented but lack the team tactical ability other teams have. They only go through if they beat Grenada and get a point from the Yanks or Honduras....this is a tall task....but so was qualifying for the 1974 World Cup.
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. Grenada did not score that many goals in the Caribbean cup and they play a very stout defensive style. They will have Sharlie Joseph (Revolutions-USA). Joseph has been called the best holding midfielder in MLS for a number of years. His versatility allowed the coach to move his to at position. He is the leading scorer for the rev this year. He will be a clog in the middle for Grenada and will feed to potent Jason Roberts (Blackburn Rovers-Eng). These players will help the Grenada attack greatly.

Prediction 1 USA, 2 Honduras, 3 Haiti, 4 Grenada

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