The 2015 Gold Cup Group C appears to be a one horse race with Mexico overshadowing the competition. The good news for the other teams in the group is that the race for second place is wide open as Cuba, Guatemala and Trinidad & Tobago vie for the automatic berth to the quarterfinals to finish in second place. Only three teams have won the Gold Cup: Mexico (6), United States (5) and Canada (1) and Mexico comes into this tournament in a must win scenario if they want to try and qualify for the 2017 Confederations Cup and silence their critics back home.
Despite the loss of star striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez to a collarbone injury in their final tune up before the Gold Cup, Mexico are still considered heavy favorites to win the group and reach the final of the tournament. The six time champions are looking to avenge a shocking end to their 2013 tournament when they were upset in the semifinals by Panama (2-1). Coach Miguel Herrera has led the team to a 15-8-7 record since taking over in November of 2013, while leading the team into the World Cup by winning their playoff against New Zealand and then leading the team to the Round of 16 in Brazil. The pressure is now on to win after a lackluster run of friendlies and failing to get out of the group stage in South America’s Copa America.
Prediction: Giovani Dos Santos and Carlos Vela will be expected to carry the scoring load for the national team, while Andres Guardado will be the heart of the team in the midfield, and fullbacks Miguel Layun and Diego Reyes will cause fits for group opponents. Mexico should win this group easily, on paper, and make the final of the tournament.
Goalkeepers: Moises Muñoz (America/MEX), Guillermo Ochoa (Malaga/ESP), Jonathan Orozco (Monterrey/MEX)
Defenders: Paul Aguilar (America/MEX), Oswaldo Alanis (Guadalajara/MEX), Yasser Corona (Queretaro/MEX), Miguel Angel Herrera (Pachuca/MEX), Miguel Layun (Watford/ENG), Diego Reyes (Porto/POR), Francisco Javier Rodriguez (Cruz Azul/MEX), Jorge Torres Nilo (UANL/MEX)
Midfielders: Jesus Manuel Corona (FC Twente/NED), Jesus Dueñas (UANL/MEX), Jonathan dos Santos (Villarreal/ESP), Carlos Esquivel (Toluca/MEX), Andres Guardado (PSV/NED), Hector Herrera (Porto/POR), Antonio Rios (Toluca/MEX), Jose Juan Vazquez (Leon/MEX)
Forwards: Giovani dos Santos (Villarreal/ESP), Javier Orozco (Santos/MEX), Oribe Peralta (America/MEX), Carlos Vela (Real Sociedad/ESP)
The most unknown team of the tournament, mostly due to the fact that all their players play in the little known Campeonato Nacional de Futbol de Cuba, Cuba’s national soccer league. Cuba qualified for Gold Cup by finishing in fourth place in the 2014 Caribbean Cup, to qualify for their eighth straight Gold Cup, Ariel Martinez led the team in scoring with two goals. Unfortunately the qualification for this edition of the Gold Cup didn’t carry over into their World Cup Qualification campaign for 2018 as they were eliminated in the second round of CONCACAF qualifying losing 1-1 in away goals rule to Curacao. Cuba does have a few bright spots heading in to the tournament though: their all time caps leader, Yenier Marquez (123 caps), scored the lone goal in the World Cup Qualifiers while providing a veteran presence on an otherwise unknown team and they played fellow group members Trinidad & Tobago to a scoreless draw in which they were the better team in last year’s Caribbean Cup.
Prediction: Cuba’s best results in this tournament have been two Quarterfinals appearances. The second and third place positions are wide open in the group and if they can manage to avoid three losses, it is not out of the realm of possibility, however, most likely a third or fourth place finish with an outside chance of qualifying for quarterfinals as one of the top two third place finishers is the best this team will do.
Goalkeepers: Arael Arguellez (Cienfuegos/CUB), Diosvelis Guerra (Artemisa/CUB), Sandy Sanchez (Las Tunas/CUB)
Defenders: Jorge Luis Clavelo (Villa Clara/CUB), Jorge Corrales (Pinar del Rio/CUB), Adrian Diz (La Habana/CUB), Hanier Dranguet (Guantanamo/CUB), Angel Horta (Camaguey/CUB), Yasmany Lopez (Ciego de Avila/CUB), Yaisnier Napoles (Camaguey/CUB), Andy Vaquero (La Habana/CUB)
Midfielders: Alberto Gomez (Guantanamo/CUB), Felix Guerra (Granma/CUB), Arichel Hernandez (Villa Clara/CUB), Daniel Luis (La Habana/CUB), Yenier Marquez (Villa Clara/CUB), Ariel Martinez (Sancti Spiritus/CUB), Dairon Perez (Camaguey/CUB), Dario Suarez (La Habana)
Forwards: Alain Cervantes (Ciego de Avila/CUB), Armando Coroneaux (Camaguey/CUB), Keiler Garcia (Camaguey/CUB), Maikel Reyes (Pinar del Rio/CUB)
Guatemala may be ranked 93rd in the FIFA/Coca Cola Rankings, however, they have a veteran group of players averaging 27.3 years old, second oldest in the tournament (Mexico 27.5). The team is headlined by, 2002 MLS MVP, 35 year old star striker Carlos Ruiz. His 116 caps and 57 goals are tops all time for the national team, however, he will have help as Minor Lopez and Jairo Arreola look like players capable of moments of brilliance if teams sleep on them. The best player on the team though is Seattle Sounders’ midfielder Marco Pappa. Pappa scored four goals in four games during the team’s run to the 2014 Copa Centroamericana final, where they lost to eventual champions Costa Rica. The national team also includes 10 players from the domestic champions Comunicaciones, and is hoping that the familiarity between those players will make a more cohesive supporting cast for Pappa and Ruiz.
Prediction: On paper this team should be much better, however, they have failed to pass the eye test in their friendlies leading up to the tournament: 3-0 loss to Mexico, 5-1 loss to Uruguay and a 4-0 loss to United States, sandwiched between a lackluster World Cup Qualifying win over Bermuda 1-0 on aggregate. Guatemala should nab second or third place in the group.
Goalkeepers: Victor Manuel Ayala (Antigua/GUA), Ricardo Jerez (Alianza Petrolera/COL), Paulo Cesar Motta (Municipal/GUA)
Defenders: Gerardo Arias (Petapa/GUA), Carlos Castrillo (Comunicaciones/GUA), Stefano Cincotta (Chemnitzer/GER), Moises Hernandez (FC Dallas/USA), Wilson Lalin (Comunicaciones/GUA), Dennis Lopez (Municipal/GUA), Ruben Morales (Comunicaciones/GUA), Elias Vasquez (Real Salt Lake/USA)
Midfielders: Jorge Aparicio (Comunicaciones/GUA), Jose Manuel Contreras (Comunicaciones/GUA), Brandon de Leon (Marquense/GUA), Carlos Figueroa (Comunicaciones/GUA), Kendell Herrarte (Comunicaciones/GUA), Jean Marquez (Comunicaciones/GUA), Carlos Mejia (Comunicaciones/GUA), Marco Pappa (Seattle Sounders/USA)
Forwards: Jairo Arreola (Comunicaciones/GUA), Edgar Chinchilla (Xelaju/GUA), Minor Lopez (Atletico CP/POR), Carlos Ruiz (Municipal/GUA)
Trinidad & Tobago
This version of the Soca Warriors aren’t the ones many remember from the 2006 World Cup, this version comes into the Gold Cup on a five match winless streak, including a 3-0 loss to Jordan, 1-0 loss to Curacao and 1-0 loss to fellow Gold Cup participant Panama. Trinidad and Tobago are also missing one of their key goal scorers, Orlando City’s Kevin Molino, who tore his ACL in May, leaving veteran Kenwyne Jones as the top striking option for the team. Three other key starters are out due to injury, so the key to this team will be how quickly they can gel together, since this team showed what they are capable of by making the Caribbean Cup final last year, eventually losing on penalties to Jamaica.
Prediction: The disjointed Trinidad and Tobago squad comes into the tournament in bad form, not a good outlook for a team looking to reach the semifinals for the second time in the nation’s history in the Gold Cup. Kenwyne Jones is capable of unleashing goals, however, he hasn’t done so for the national team since 2013, while players such as Joevin Jones, Kevan George and Deneil Cyrus will be relied upon to help grow and guide this new crop of Soca Warriors to a second or third place finish.
Goalkeepers: Adrian Foncette (Police/TRI), Marvin Phillip (Point Fortin Civic/TRI), Jan-Michael Williams (Central/TRI)
Defenders: Radanfah Abu Bakr (Koge/DEN), Sheldon Bateau (Mechelen/BEL), Daneil Cyrus (Ha Noi T&T/VIE), Aubrey David (Shakhter/KAZ), Dwayne James (North East Stars/TRI), Yohance Marshall (Juventud Independiente/SLV), Mekeil Williams (Antigua/GUA)
Midfielders: Andre Boucaud (Dagenham & Redbridge/ENG), Cordell Cato (San Jose Earthquakes/USA), Kadeem Corbin (St. Ann’s Rangers/TRI), Keron Cummings (North East Stars/TRI), Kevan George (Columbus Crew/USA), Ataullah Guerra (Central/TRI), Khaleem Hyland (Racing Genk/BEL), Joevin Jones (Chicago Fire/USA), Lester Peltier (Slovan Bratislava/SVK)
Forwards: Jonathan Glenn (IBV/ISL), Kenwyne Jones (Bournemouth/ENG), Willis Plaza (Central/TRI), Rundell Winchester (Portland Timbers 2/USA)