Sunday, July 5, 2009

The first games are in the books

Well the Gold Cup is underway. The first games are in the books. There was already some surprises.

Group A

CONCACAF officials must have been very happy to see a sellout at the Home Depot Center. 27,000 fans showed up to support their nation. The first game between Canada and Jamaica the stadium was not full. The fans came to see the second game between El Salvador and Costa Rica. I would guess to say that El Salvador fans outnumber Costa Rica fans 5 to 1 in the final game. El Salvador fans were not disappointed either. El Salvador played with confidence and finally beat their nemesis to the south. This was significant since El Salvador had not beaten Costa Rica since 1997. This 12 year span included loses to the Tico’s in the UNCAF Cup and other Gold Cups. This will be a huge confidence boost for El Salvador as they play the other 2 teams in the Group of Death. Canada did crash out of World Cup Qualifying and they did not even win a game in the semi-final round. Most Canuck fans were distressed at the national situation. Before the tournament even started Dwayne De Rosario and Adrian Serious decided not to participate. Both of these players would have been starters. A sinking feeling was taking over camp but the CSA pressed on. Canada had to open against Jamaica. They could not beat Jamaica at home in World Cup Qualifying and they lost 3:0 in Kingston. Jamaica had a plethora of international stars in GK Donovan Ricketts, Ricardo Gardner (Bolton Wanders), Luton Shelton (Valerenga) and Omar Cummings (Colorado Rapids). They are my dark horse to win the entire tourney. Well we all know about the late heroics that Canada had beating the Reggae Boyz.
Both of the favorites will clash in Columbus. This will be the battle for survival. The winner between Canada/ El Salvador may very well be the winner of the group. To me these will be the most interesting games.

Group B

The group so far is falling into typical shape. Both The Yanks and Honduras won. Seattle Qwest Field had the lowest fans attendance so far. This is disappointing to the USA federation. Seattle wants to be known as the soccer city in America but attendance of 15,387 is almost ½ of what shows for a Seattle FC game.
The Yanks Camp: The story so far for the Yanks is that the plan is working. They want to develop the young guns to develop depth for the national team. Bradley played 2 experienced midfielders and the creative/youth was up front and on the wings. At forward Bradley had Davies and Adu and on the wings in Robbie Rogers and Stuart Holden. All 4 of these players had youth on their side. Freddy Adu 20, Robbie Roggers 22, Charlie Davies 23 and Stuart Holden 23 all scored in the 4:0 blanking of Grenada. The yanks dominated possession with short passes to involve everyone. They changes direction of field to look for weaknesses. They dominated shots, shots on goal and goals. To me I was happy with Rogers. The left side is the Yanks national team is their weakest spot. Rogers (a pure left footer) was always dangerous with the ball. He had 7 serves from the left side in the first half...when I started counting. I stopped counting after Holdens goal. The young “Creative positions” at forward and the wings had to please Bradley. However they will get a better assessment against Honduras.
The group winner will be decided next game in D.C. Honduras beat Haiti with a Costly header late in the game. Haiti looked better than Grenada if there is a winner between the 2 …that team could advance. Other group teams (especially Jamaica and Costa Rica) will be hoping for a tie.

Group C

I was glad to see Nicaragua stayed competitive the whole game. Nicaragua stayed in form and they were hard to break down. "They made it difficult for us," Aguirre said about Nicaragua, a team making its Gold Cup debut. "They stood back and never came out of their area, complicating things. But we take perseverance out of this. This was a team that looked and looked for a solution and that first goal took off some of that pressure. I think the score is just." Just as CONCACAF is developing so are the teams. It was good to see a competative Nicaragua team perform. Again I saw the referee not call clear yellow and ever red cards against El Tri.
The stadium was empty for the Guadeloupe – Panama match up however 32,500 eventually trickled into to see Mexico play Nicaragua. The Home Depot Center was a sell out but 32,500 did beat the Home Depot Center capacity. This group now moves to Houston Reliant Stadium.
Panama will be fighting for their survival life against Mexico here.
Guadeloupe again impressed beating the UNCAF Champion 2:1. Most on Guadeloupe team play in French National leagues that have regulation. The second and third tier leagues are better top to bottom that the top tier teams in most of the Central American nations. Guadeloupe was a revelation in 2007 however they have a quality team that could take top honors not only in the Group but the entire tournament. We were confident enough that we knew we could do something interesting in this tournament," Guadeloupe captain Stephane Auvray said. "The most important thing was to get the three points, but I think we can do better in the next game. We can keep the ball much more, but for the first game it's a good start." Would this be a black eye for CONCACAF if Guadeloupe won the Gold Cup?

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