Gold Cup 2011 Preview, Matchday One

Posted on May 31, 2011 5:26 pm

I do realize that this entry would be more appropriate to release on Friday or Saturday, ahead of the opening match between Costa Rica and Cuba in Dallas on Sunday. In my defense, I don’t have much of a choice: after tomorrow I will be offline for a week while visiting family, so I wanted to get this entry up beforehand.

As I mentioned in the Regional Review’s inaugural post, I would mainly focus on the qualifying tournaments and leagues that feed into two of CONCACAF’s “marquis events”, the Gold Cup and the Champions League. As for those two tournaments themselves, along with World Cup qualifying, there are already plenty of places that you can go to find information on teams, TV schedules, discussion and the like. As such, I decided to iron out a format for the Regional Review’s coverage of the “marquis events”: the initial draw will be preceded by a preview (except for the Gold Cup, since the groups seem to be drawn without rhyme or reason) and proceeded by an analysis similar to the one I made for the upcoming CCL.

Then, before each matchday, I will write up a post with the schedule for the games and a highlighted “match of the round.” Finally, following each matchday, I will provide a recap loosely based on BigSoccer moderator Argentine Soccer Fan‘s excellent coverage of the 2010 Copa Libertadores. In the Regional Review’s case, this will include a “Team of the Week/Round”, the “Country of the Week” (specifically for the CCL), and a “Goat of the Round/Week”, for which anyone is eligible, even CONCACAF’s replay crew (hopefully they will not “win” the award every time).

With that said, this entry will serve as both the review of the matchups in this year’s continental championship, and a preview for the first round of matches at the start of next week. Let’s start with the groups:

Group A

Mexico
El Salvador
Cuba
Costa Rica

What are the most intriguing matchups?

Mexico and El Salvador have a long history of heated battles between each other, even including a match at the World Cup Finals. The Mexico-Costa Rica match is also of particular interest to the Mexican media, because of current Tico manager Ricardo LaVolpe’s previous tenure with el Tri from 2003 to 2006.

How hard is the group?

I do not see any team in this group being a “soft touch” necessarily, although Cuba does appear to be the “weak link” and El Salvador does not have much Gold Cup success to speak of.

Predictions to advance?

Mexico and Costa Rica move on; El Salvador finishes in third place but misses out on the quarterfinals; and Cuba ends up in fourth.

Group B

Honduras
Guatemala
Grenada
Jamaica

What are the most intriguing matchups?

Honduras and Guatemala should serve up an entertaining, fierce derby match at the Home Depot Center, while Honduras and Jamaica may well be playing for first place at the end of the group.

How hard is the group?

Let’s be frank: Guatemala is the worst of the Central American teams playing in this Gold Cup. And Grenada is the worst of the Caribbean teams in this tournament. I’m surprised they ended up in the same group, but I guess the USA-Canada showdown in Detroit was too juicy for CONCACAF to pass up. This is the easiest of the groups, not for Mexico’s and the US’s absence, but for the presence of the two Gold Cup minnows.

Predictions to advance?

Honduras, Jamaica and Guatemala all move on, thanks to fourth-place Grenada.

Group C

USA
Canada
Panama
Guadeloupe

What are the most intriguing matchups?

USA-Canada will get all of the headlines, but every game not involving the US will be intriguing. While the US will be focused on getting back to their fourth-straight Gold Cup Final, Canada is a former champion, Panama a former runner-up and Guadeloupe a former semifinalist. Second place is wide open.

How hard is the group?

If any group in which three teams can advance can be considered the Group of Death, this is it. I fully expect second place to still be up for grabs before the final games in Kansas City.

Predictions to advance?

The United States, Canada and Guadeloupe, at the expense of fourth-place Panama. I’m basing this call on the coaches: Bob Bradley is a well-known quantity at the head of the US, Stephen Hart has yet to miss out on the quarterfinals at the helm of Canada, and Roger Salnot is the longest-serving coach in this tournament, while Julio Dely Valdes is still working out the kinks in his first year in charge of Panama.

And now, here is the schedule for Matchday 1 of the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup, with the Group mentioned first (all times EST).

Sunday, June 5:

A – Costa Rica vs. Cuba, 6:00 p.m.
A – Mexico vs. El Salvador, 8:00 p.m.

Monday, June 6:

B – Jamaica vs. Grenada, 9:00 p.m.
B – Honduras vs. Guatemala, 11:00 p.m.

Tuesday, June 7:

C – Panama vs. Guadeloupe, 6:00 p.m.
C – USA vs. Canada, 8:00 p.m.

MATCH OF THE ROUND

vs.

I was tempted to give this distinction to the US/Canada derby, since Canada will be strongly motivated to get a positive result against their biggest rivals (and more importantly, a leg-up on Panama and Guadeloupe). But Monday’s derby match may be more significant in terms of its importance to the final standings in Group B. Namely, this game will show if Guatemala has any ambition above and beyond meekly finishing in third place and bowing out in the quarterfinals against Mexico or the US.

Finally, I should point out that all the matches of this Gold Cup will be streamed on CONCACAF TV (although the site’s currently under maintenance) and Univision.com.

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