Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Jamaica
They are presently playing their best soccer right now in CONCACAF. They sit atop the Hexagon standing with a 4-0-1 record with 12 points. They have beaten the USA, Honduras, El Salvador at home. They also beat Trinidad and Tobago in the only away victory at this stage. They also have allowed the fewest goals (5) of the 6 remaining Hexagon teams. The Tico’s are clicking on all cylinders and Kenton is not taking his foot off the gas. He has brought his senior team and look to take their first Gold Cup.
Players to watch for are Saprissa’s Walter Centeno. He is a cagy veteran who can control the pace of the game in the middle. Celso Borges (Club Fredrikstad-NOR) will help Centreno with his quick attacks up the middle. He is deadly around the goal area scoring 5 goals in the last 2 qualifing wounds. They will feed strikers Andy Furtado (Marathon-Hon) and Alvaro Saborio of Sion - Switzerland. They will be the favorite to win this group since this team has the experience, depth and cohesion from playing together so long.
Jamaica The Reggae Boyz will be playing in their 7th Gold Cup. They qualified by winning the 2009 Caribbean Cup 2:0 against Grenada in Kingston Jamaica. This brings their Caribbean Championships to 4. They have made the knockout round 4 out of 6 times they participated in the Gold Cup. The Reggae Boyz best performance was reaching the semi-finals on 2 occasions (1993, 1998). They had a very memorable 0:0 tie with Brazil in 1998 Gold Cup group play game.
The Reggae Boyz and fans are dreadfully disappointed they are not participating in the Final Hexagon stage. They registered 3 victories in their last 3 semi-final games beating Honduras, Mexico and Canada. They tied Mexico for second place and were edged out on goal differential. They have to wait another 4 years for the next World Cup cycle. Luckily they have the Gold Cup to look forward to. They have proven they are the best of the Caribbean in 2009 by winning the Caribbean Cup and want to prove they belong with the elite of CONCACAF. They are the only Caribbean representative in this group and will be looking to prove themselves.
Look for Omar Cummings FW who is on a tear for the Colorado Rapids. He is fast and powerful and the rugged MLS defenses can not stop him. FW -Luton Shelton (Valerenga-Nor)already has 27 goals for the senior team with only 43 appearances. Jamaica also has Ricardo Fuller (Stoke City-Eng) and Marlon King (Wigan Athletic-Eng) up front to complete the most accomplished and deepest FW positions in the Tournament. These potent forwards will be feed from Jeraine Johnson (Shefeild Wednesday-ENG), Jamal Campbell-Ryce (Barnsley-ENG), Demar Phillips (Aalesunds-NOR). The Defense will be anchored by Ricardo Gardner (Bolton Wanders-Eng) who should have over 100 caps after the tournament is complete. Guarding the net will be Donovan Ricketts (LA-Galaxy-USA0 who presently is the best goalie in MSL this year. This team is loaded with international players who play at the top levels in Europe. They are bringing a very experienced players and if they can find some cohesion and play a little defense they will go deep in this tournament.
The Wild Card
Canada The Canucks are making their 9th appearance in 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. They beat a very talented Colombia 2:0 in LA California. They are the only other CONCACAF team to win the Gold Cup besides (USA and Mexico). They reached the semi-finals in 2007 event losing to eventual Champion USA 2:1. They are lead by Coach Stephen Hart.
The big new out of Canada is Dwane DeRosario decision not to play in the Gold Cup. The decision is understandable since Canada will not be playing in the 2010 World Cup. The national team has to get ready for 2014. DeRosario will not be involved in that campaign. Also Toronto TC is struggling in the crucial part of MLS right now. Toronto TC also has to get ready for the Champions league.
Canada will have Gold Cup 2007 MVP Juan De Guzman of Deportivo La Coruna (ESP) will patrolling the Middle. He may be paired up with Will Johnson of Real Salt Lake – USA. Johnson is a versatile and can play the AT position. They will feed Ali Gerba MK Dons (Eng) up front. Gerba was their best offense in World Cup Qualifying and they will rely on him. Also look for 22 year old Simeon Jackson (Gillingham-ENG). “Jackson has shined all season for the club, and ended the season as the team's leading scorer with twenty goals”  Their back line will be anchored by their captain Paul Stalteri. Stalteri plays along side Michael Bradley in Germany for Borussia Monchengladbach (GER). The rest of the team is made up of players playing in MLS and scattered through out Europe.
They will be a formidable club if De Guzman can find some space in the middle and the young players come of age. They play a well organized defense scheme. They are all very big and play a very physical game. Spirits are very low right now in Canada after crashing out of World Cup Qualifying semi-final round. This Gold Cup can in a good time for many Canuck fans. They believe they are capable of regaining the magic of 2000 and feel they have something to prove to themselves and to the rest of CONCACAF. They played a great tournament in 2007 beating Costa Rica 2:1 and Haiti 2:0 in group play. They then dominated Guatemala 3:0 in the knockout round. Then in the semi-final they played a very even match against the Yanks. They were robbed on a bad call to tie the game at the end of regulation. This call will compare to the “Hand of God” with in CONCACAF as one of the most horrendous non-calls ever. The Canucks play well in the States and if Staleri can organize the defense it will be hard to score on them.
Mexican Carlos de los Cobos took over as head coach in 2006. The El Salvador national team has drastically improved. The surprised Central American Champion Panama by knocking them out in World Cup Qualifying. Then they surprised pundits again by getting by Haiti and Suriname in the semi-finals and making the Final stage. Many others, like me, thought that El Salvador would just be cannon fodder in the final round. They played the Yanks in March and the Yanks were lucky to get a 2:2 tie at the end of the game. The played the tightest game of any team at Saprissa stadium only losing 1:0 to the Tico’s. This team is brimming with confidence after the recent 2-1 victory over Mexico in San Salvador. Their team is playing extremely well and wants the team firing on all cylinders going into the 2nd half of World Cup Qualifying.
They will be bringing their senior team to the Gold Cup and do not want to lose their edge. Look for Christian Castillo and Cyprus based Eliseo Quintanilla with their clean sharp passes in the middle. They will try to spring senior Rudis Corales and the ultra quick Rodolfo Zelaya (Mexico Club Leon) up front. The team and fans now believe they can beat anyone in CONCACAF with their recent World Cup Qualifying games. They will be bringing one of their strongest teams to the Gold Cup. They just have to learn how to win outside of Cuscatalon Stadium.
The Group Group A will feature a team from each of the 3 regions in CONCACAF. There will be 2 Central American (Costa Rica & El Salvador) teams battling a North American representative (Canada) and the Caribbean Champion (Jamaica). This will be the most competitive group of the 3 groups. Costa Rica may be the favorite the other nations will be looking to prove themselves. Every team and their fans believe that their national team can win this group.
This is the 6th time the Canada and Costa Rica have been placed in the same Gold Cup group. This game has turned into a great rivalry between these 2 nations. Canada beat them 2:1 in the last Gold Cup so the Tico’s will be ready for them this year.
Jamaica opens against Canada and after a 3:0 drubbing of the Canucks in Kingston. The Canucks will not overlook the Reggae Boyz in the first game. Whoever wins this game will gain much needed confidence going forward. I give the edge to the Reggae Boyz here. El Salvador opens against Costa Rica and they will want to establish a tone before the Final Hex game in San Salvador. This will be a very physical game. El Salvador is tired of playing second fiddle to the Ticos and this will be their best chance to rectify this.
I believe Costa Rica is playing their best ball and should emerge the top seed here. Jamaica wants to exert its influence beyond the Caribbean and will be going all out for this Championship. They have the talent to go deep in this Gold Cup. Canada will be playing many youngsters however they play well in the States. El Salvador has gained tremendous confidence and could be the surprise. Los Cuscatlecos will be hoping to get points to make quarterfinals.