Gold Cup: Breaking Down The USMNT’s Group A Opponents

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(Editorial) – Honduras, Haiti, and Panama. Those are the teams the United States Men’s National Team will be playing against in Group A of the 2015 Gold Cup. MLS fans will immediately recall the likes of Blas Perez, Oscar Boniek Garcia, and Jaime Penedo. Even the casual USMNT soccer fan will recall a World Cup qualification match against Honduras and Panama. Haiti is a bit of an unknown, other than the safe assumption that they are not very good.

Click here for the full rosters of every 2015 Gold Cup team.

Gold Cup: Breaking Down The USMNT’s Group A Opponents

In any case, here are the highlights for what needs to be known about the USMNT’s Group A Opponents:

Haiti

Goalkeepers (3): Steward Ceus (Atlanta Silverbacks/USA), Jaafson Orgine (Don Bosco/Haiti), Johny Placide (Stade de Reims/France)

Defenders (8): Judelin Aveska (Gimnasia de Jujuy/Argentina), Frantz Bertin (Aiginiakos FC/Greece), Reginal Goreux (FC Rostov/Russia), Bitielo Jean Jacques (Kraze United/USA), Kim Jaggy (FC Aarau/Switzerland), Mechack Jerome (Charlotte Independence/USA), Kevin Lafrance (Miedź Legnica/Poland), Jean Jacques Pierre (SCO Angers/France)

Midfielders (9): Jean Sony Alcenat (Petrolul Ploiesti/Romania), Jean-Marc Alexandre (Negeri Sembilan/Malaysia), Wilde-Donald Guerrier (Wisla Krakow/Poland), Jeff Louis (Standard Liege/Belgium), James Marcelin (Fort Lauderdale Strikers/USA), Pascal Millien (Jacksonville Armada FC/USA), Soni Mustivar (Sporting Kansas City/USA), Sony Norde (Mohun Bagan/India), Sebastien Thuriere (Charleston Battery/USA)

Forward (3): Kervens Belfort (Ethnikos Achnas/Cyprus), Jean Eudes Maurice (Nea Salamis Famagusta/Cyprus), Duckens Nazon (Stade Lavallois/France)

After digging and digging to find information on this team, I found the Treasure of Cortes before I found anything about this team. In all seriousness, there isn’t much here. Three players on this roster play in the NASL, two of them play in the USL. Haiti has done their fair share of poaching other nationals who are eligible to play for them, but it hasn’t resulted in a significant influx of talent.

This squad is very inexperienced at striker and in net. Their captain, Johnny Placide, is the expected starting keeper. He only has 16 caps with the national team. Their top two strikers are Jean-Eudes Maurice and Kervens Belfort. They have 21 and 18 caps respectively. While they have limited international experience compared to strikers for the other teams in their groups, they’ve combined for 19 goals, good enough for almost half a goal per appearance.

The two most notable players on this roster are Jean Sony Alcenat and Judelin Aveska. Both are in their prime at age 27 and 29 respectively. They’ve combined for 99 caps internationally. Alcenat has made a name for himself in Romania since 2012. Aveska has become a regular starter with Independiente Rivadavia in the Argentina second division before transferring to Gimnasia.

Outlook: Prevent Alcenat and Aveska from dominating at their respective positions and Haiti will not see enough of the ball for their strikers to muster anything. For the American soccer fan, Haiti’s participation in this tournament will be more about potentially scouting a player to join their club team. The cupboards are too bare for this team to do more than get one draw in this group.

Honduras

Goalkeepers (3): Donis Escober (Olimpia/Honduras), Luis Lopez (Real España/Honduras), Noel Valladares (Olimpia/Honduras)

Defenders (8): Ever Alvarado (Olimpia/Honduras), Brayan Beckeles (Boavista/Portugal), Wilmer Crisanto (Motagua/Honduras), Maynor Figueroa (Unattached), Henry Figueroa (Motagua/Honduras), Bryan Garcia (Vida/Honduras), Johnny Leveron (Marathon/Honduras), Johnny Palacios (Olimpia/Honduras)

Midfielders (8): Bryan Acosta (Real España/Honduras), Jorge Claros (Qingdao Jonoon/China), Carlos Discua (Motagua/Honduras), Oscar Boniek Garcia (Houston Dynamo/USA), Mario Martinez (Real España/Honduras); Alfredo Mejia (Panthrakikos FC/Greece); Andy Najar (Anderlecht/Belgium); Romell Quioto (Olimpia/Honduras)

Forwards (4): Erick Andino (Victoria/Honduras); Rubilio Castillo (Motagua/Honduras); Eddie Hernandez (Motagua/Honduras); Antony Lozano (Olimpia/Honduras)

The 35-man roster for Honduras came as a bit of a surprise with many of their regulars not included. Four of their five most experienced players were not included. Victor Bernardez, Marvin Chavez, and Roger Espinoza were not called up. Also absent from the preliminary roster was Emilio Izaguirre, who is the starting left back for Celtic. He will be partaking in the club’s Champion’s League knock out games.

Oscar Boniek Garcia and Luis Garrido are the only MLS-based players on this roster.

This squad is very Honduran domestic league heavy. 15 of the 23 players currently play in Honduras, with 10 players coming from either Olimpia and Motagua. Head Coach Jorge Luis Pinto took over Los Catrachos this past December and has emphasized the Honduran based players. This could be an experiment by Pinto. He could be trying to have chemistry trump talent in bringing in a group who play together/against each other frequently. The forward core is very inexperienced. The most veteran striker has 15 caps and five goals. This is arguably the team’s biggest weakness.

Outlook: The roster selection is still very much a head-scratcher. There is no strong veteran presence like there was for the World Cup. This could be a chance for Honduras to try a few new players out and catch other teams by surprise with some unfamiliar faces. Still, it’s difficult to see this team overtaking the much more internationally talented and experienced Americans and Panamanians.

Panama

Goalkeepers (3): Jose Calderon (Coatepeque/Guatemala); Luis Mejia (CA Fenix/Uruguay); Jaime Penedo (LA Galaxy/USA)

Defenders (6): Harold Cummings (Independiente Santa Fe/Colombia); Erick Davis (Sporting San Miguelito/Panama); Luis Henriquez (Lech Poznan/Poland); Adolfo Machado (Saprissa/Costa Rica); Angel Patrick (Arabe Unido/Panama); Roman Torres (Millonarios/Colombia)

Midfielders (8): Miguel Camargo (Chorrillo FC/Panama); Armando Cooper (FC St. Pauli/Germany); Anibal Godoy (Budapest Honved/Hungary); Gabriel Gomez (Herediano/Costa Rica); Valentin Pimentel (Plaza Amador/Panama); Darwin Pinzon (Sporting San Miguelito/Panama); Alberto Quintero (Lobos BUAP/MEX); Alfredo Stephens (Chorrillo FC/Panama);

Forwards (6): Abdiel Arroyo (Arabe Unido/Panama); Rolando Blackburn (Comunicaciones/Guatemala); Roberto Nurse (Dorados Sinaloa/Mexico); Blas Perez (FC Dallas/USA); Luis Tejada (Juan Aurich/Peru); Gabriel Torres (Colorado Rapids/USA);

Panama has been realing ever since their stoppage time collapse against the USMNT in World Cup qualification in 2013. Head Coach and Panamanian legend Julio Dely Valdes left the team in December of 2013. Valdes had only begun coaching in 2006 and began coaching the national team in 2010.

For the first time since 2006, FEPAFUT went with a coach from outside Panama with experience. In February of last year, Columbian Hernan Dario Gomez was appointed manager. Gomez came with him 17 years of coaching experience, primarily with the Columbian National Team and Categoria Primeria A, the Columbian domestic league.

Gomez has brought in an infusion of youth with this Gold Cup squad. Eight of these 23 players have 10 international caps or fewer. This is also a very young team: only seven players on this team are age 30 or older. The older players Gomez has kept have been the main success stories for Los Canaleros on the club level.

Perez has been one of the biggest players for FC Dallas the past few years. Gabriel Gomez is Panama’s best defender and is a regular starter for Herediano, one of the best club teams in Costa Rica. Ramon Torres is this team’s most experienced defender and plays for Millionarios, Columbia’s super club. Penedo is one of the most acrobatic goalkeepers in MLS and he’s improved since coming to America. Gomez appeared to cut bait with long time captain, Felipe Baloy, who is not part of the 23-man roster.

Outlook: Gomez’s squad appears to be a perfect balance of experience and youthful talent. This is the most talented of the Gold Cup teams that will come in playing typical CONCACAF soccer. Their veterans are not to be scuffed at and many of their younger players are a bit of an unknown.

If Gomez has played his cards right, he could come out of this like a crazy Columbian version of Jurgen Klinsmann: put together a squad of vets and young players you like and pull off a shocker or two.