The United States will defend their 2017 Gold Cup Championship starting on Tuesday the 18th, against Guyana. The tournament officially kicks off on Saturday the 15th, between Canada and Martinique. This Concacaf tournament is dominated historically by the United States and Mexico while Canada is the only other country to raise the trophy in the new millennium. Mexico are the slight favorites to win it all with the United States being a close second and Costa Rica a distant third. The draw pans out for a potential rivalry championship match between Mexico and the USA. Gregg Berhalter’s squad arrives to the tournament on the wrong foot by losing their two warm-up matches to Jamaica and Venezuela. How successful will the United States be in going back to back? There are three teams that stand a legitimate chance to take home the trophy.
United States Preview
Being slated in Group D with Guyana, Panama and Trinidad & Tobago, it would be a large disappointed not to win the group. The Stars and Stripes will have vengeance and determination to win the group given they will face Trinidad & Tobago. They are the team who eliminated the United States from qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. Additionally, The American Outlaws should make for a raucous environment with all their games coming on US soil.
Zack Steffen, the 24-year-old Man City transfer, will be manning the net for the US. With 10 national team appearances under his belt, he looks to be the future keeper of the team and they should have confidence with this choice. He is coming off a season where he won MLS Goalkeeper of the year and recorded 10 clean sheets.
Pulisic comes into the tournament healthy and in solid form. He netted two goals and one assist in his last three games for Dortmund and will look to continue this success. All eyes will be on him as the USA is waiting for the 20-year-old to breakout and become the leader of the national team. Fans have been anxiously waiting for him to become the solidified captain of the team and this Gold Cup provides the perfect chance.
Berhalter’s back four will provide the most intrigue to see if they will go ahead with pushing forward the right back when the US has possession without Tyler Adams. This style was built around Adams so it will be interesting to see if Berhalter finds a replacement on the roster or if he adapts to a holding back four.
The average age of the roster is 25.8 years-old but there is veteran presence with Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore. Each own over 100 national team appearances. If the United States can find cohesion between a squad that does not have many appearances together, look for them to be in the Gold Cup Finals.
Since Tata Martino has taken over the reigns for El Tri, they have won all four matches under him in 2019. Coming in great form and being placed in Group A would be why Mexico is a slight favorite to raise the trophy. However, should that be the case? Roster decisions have been all the buzz. Many players expected to be named to the team were not or declined. MLS star, Carlos Vela headlines one of the talented players to be left off with Herrera, Corona and Chicharito. Hirving Lozano will miss the Gold Cup as well due to injury. Mexico will rely on its back four and star-studded strikers to lead them through the tournament.
Raúl Jiménez netted 14 goals and provided 8 assists this past season for the Wolves in the Premier League so there is no doubt he is in phenomenal form. He is a 6’ 3” physical striker that dribbles like the ball is on a string and has a powerful shot. Jiménez will have plenty of chances since Rodolfo Pizarro will be setting him up through the midfield. The draw Mexico received along with their current form, El Tri should be in the finals.
Can you be a sleeper team when you reach the finals in the past two Gold Cups? The Reggae Boyz fall into this category. They are not getting the credit they deserve in Group C. Jamaica has the fourth best odds to raise the trophy after beating the US 1-0 less than two weeks ago. For the first time in tournament history, 2 matches will be played outside of the United States. Jamaica will host their first group match against Honduras in Kingston where it will be a sell-out crowd and provide a home field advantage.
The Reggae Boyz can advance to their third straight Gold Cup finals given the talent on the roster. Their captain, Andre Blake, is having a career season in the MLS for the Philadelphia Union. Blake was spectacular against the US in their most recent win. He is a ball-hawk on corners and when the ball is crossed into the box. The reflexes he displays on close shots or on penalty kicks along with his recovery time from laying out is critical in close and hectic games.
One player flying under the radar for Jamaica is their left-back Kemar Lawrence. A reliable left-back is difficult to find but they have one in Lawrence. He is gifted with incredible speed and an ability to knock defenders off the ball. The combination of Blake and Lawrence will give opponents fits trying to put the ball in the back of the net.
Leon Bailey will look to break out and become an even bigger name this Gold Cup on the wing for Jamaica. The 21-year-old produced for Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga this past season and will look to continue his solid form. If the Reggae Boyz can score with consistency, look for them to be in their third straight Gold Cup Finals.
Player to Watch
Alphonso Davies, the striker for Canada, is looking for another success Gold Cup at the age of 18. When he suited up for the Voyageurs in the 2017 Gold Cup, he was tied for the leading scorer at only 16-years-old. If you’re a fan of breakaway speed with 1 on 1 against the keeper, then tune in to watch Canada secure the second spot in Group A. He was a transfer this past winter from the Vancouver Whitecaps to Bayern Munich. They are hoping he will be netting a surplus of goals for them coming soon.
The first semi-final match would be a rematch of the previous Gold Cup Championship featuring the USA and Jamaica. In their friendly earlier this month, Jamaica won 1-0 but the United States did not play its projected formation. Next, they started Sargent at striker who is not on the final roster. Lastly, Pulisic did not play and that should be a significant factor for the United States to secure the victory.
Mexico would face Costa Rica in the other semi-final match. Costa Rica’s aging squad will let them down and Mexico should advance with ease to the finals.
The United States and Mexico have not been in the Finals together since 2011 and its no better time for a rivalry game. Both squads have new managers who have not faced each other, so it will be interesting to see the tactics they deploy. The last time the Stars and Stripes matched up against El Tri, it was high intensity and emotion where the US won 1-0. Fans should expect the same type of atmosphere and result in Chicago for this Championship match.