Gold Cup: Group 2 PreviewBy: Juan Mesa
Group 2 of the Gold Cup will be played in Los Angeles, Houston and Toronto, and begins this Wednesday with a double-header at Los Angeles’ Stubhub Center: Costa Rica vs. Jamaica (8pm ET) and El Salvador vs. Canada (10:30pm ET).
Expect an all-out battle between Jamaica, Canada and El Salvador and Costa Rica, now the third giant of CONCACAF along with Mexico and the United States.
THE FAVORITE: Costa Rica’s amazing run to quarterfinals in the Brazil World Cup wasn’t enough to renew the contract of coach Jorge Luis Pinto. Players and assistants actually revolted against it, which ended up putting legendary striker Paulo Wanchope at the helm of the Ticos, a move that has yet to convince all of the fans and media. Costa Rica’s roster still has most of the players that beat Uruguay and Italy in Brazil (save for injured keeper Keylor Navas), plus Real Salt Lake’s striker Álvaro Saborío, who missed the World Cup because of a last-minute injury.
THE SECOND PLACE BATTLE: Jamaica lost its three Copa América matches —against Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay— by 1-0, but that was actually a pretty good outcome: not even Lionel Messi could outplay them, and the Reggae Boyz left a good impression. Things should be less difficult in the Gold Cup for the current Caribbean Cup champions. Battling them for second place should be Canada, a team that underwent a transformation in the past three years thanks to the hiring of Spaniard coach Benito Floro. Keep an eye out for MLS youngsters Tesho Akindele (FC Dallas) and Cyle Larin (Orlando City), Canadian players that should be in everyone’s lips after the tournament.
THE UNDERDOG: The past decade was a hard one for El Salvador, as a combination of bad results and game-fixing scandals can hurt any league. Nonetheless, Spaniard coach Albert Rocca believes good soccer is in Salvadoreans genes (just remember Jorge “Mágico” González), and has found a way to renovate the national team. Names like Andrés Flores, Darwin Cerén and Rafael Burgos will lead El Salvador’s soccer renaissance.
LOGISTICS: Broadcast by Fox Sports 1/2 and Univisión Deportes