2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup Group A Preview

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March 28, 2017 - Costa Rica's midfielder Bryan Ruiz (R), Honduras' midfielder Jorge Claros and Honduras' defender Brayan Beckeles (L) vie for the ball during their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier football match in San Pedro Sula, Honduras on March 28, 2017. (Getty Images/AFP/Johan Ordanez).

Editorial (July 5, 2017) – The 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup gets underway on Friday, July 7th with two Group A games at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. Group A features some interesting teams, including CONCACAF power Costa Rica. There are a few other teams in this group though with a decent chance at advancing to the quarter finals or further. Here’s your full 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup Group A preview.

2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup Group A Preview

Canada

It seems like every World Cup cycle/Gold Cup, we talk about whether or not Canadian Soccer can get back to relevance. The Canucks crashed out of qualification for the 2018 World Cup last September. Benito Floro was promptly fired. Now the mission has changed: get the youth ready for 2022.

The Canadians boast a bunch of exciting young talent in the player pool. Over half of this squad is under 24-years-old, including Vancouver Whitecaps wonderboy, Alfonso Davies. They’ll be captained by a veteran though, 37-year-old Patrice Bernier who could be playing his last major tournament for the side. Orlando City SC striker Cyle Larin will not be with the team after some off the field issues. Because of this, the roster lacks some scoring.

Canada will play the first match of the tournament against group minnow French Guiana. They’ll then head to Houston, TX to take on Costa Rica. Should they get a win and then pull off a draw against Los Ticos, they’ll have a great chance to advance to the knockout stage. Even if they don’t, this tournament is about getting the kids experience. If Russell Teibert and Jonathan Osorio show promise, Manager Octavio Zambrano will be happy.

Player to watch: Alfonso Davies – The kid is only 16-years-old. I’m not sure how many minutes he will get, but everyone will be watching for him. Davies has been great starting and off the bench for Vancouver, especially for a teenager. He’s part of the future for this program. The future could be now.

Squad (club in parentheses):

Goalkeepers – Maxime Crépeau (Montreal Impact), Milan Borjan (MKS Korona Kielce), Jayson Leutwiler (Shrewsbury Town)
Defenders – Fraser Aird (unattached), Manjrekar James (Vasas Budapest), Steven Vitoria (Lechia Gdansk), Dejan Jakovic (New York Cosmos), Samuel Adekugbe (Brighton & Hove Albion), Adam Straith (FC Edmonton), Marcel de Jong (Vancouver Whitecaps)
Midfielders – Samuel Piette (CD Izarra), Russell Teibert (Vancouver Whitecaps), Scott Arfield (Burnley), David Junior Hoilett (Cardiff City), Alphonso Davies (Vancouver Whitecaps), Jonathan Osorio (Toronto FC), Mark-Anthony Kaye (Louisville City), Patrice Bernier (Montreal Impact), Raheem Edwards (Toronto FC), Michael Petrasso (Queens Park Rangers)
Forwards – Tosaint Ricketts (Toronto FC), Anthony Jackson-Hamel (Montreal Impact), Lucas Cavallini (CA Penarol)

Costa Rica

Los Ticos come in as heavy group favorites. Ever since their run to the Quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup, their 3-5-2/5-3-2 system has been a respected force in CONCACAF. Expect this formation and the wing backs to play a major role in this tournament. Mexico and the United States will be favorites to win, but this team is just as capable.

The roster features a wide variety of foreign and domenstic talent, including five MLS-based players. Captain Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell played at Sporting CP this past year. They’ll lead the midfield. MLSers Marco Ureña and Johan Venegas could start up top. We’ll likely see a rotating cast on the backline, due to the style of play.

They’ll start the tournament off with regional rival Honduras. They’ll then play Canada and finish the group with French Guiana. They’re facing teams in order of decreasing difficulty, but they’re still easy favorites. Expect the full team to go out against Honduras and Canada and get results. Manager Óscar Ramírez could then experiment in the final game before getting ready for the knockout rounds.

Player to watch: Joel Campbell – Most MLS fans will be watching David Guzman, but I’m going with Campbell. The Arsenal man has spent part of every season on loan since transferring there in 2011. His contract is up in June 2018. He could be auditioning for another loan stint with this tournament or a return to North America. Campbell will want to perform well to try and finally make the Arsenal first team long term.

Squad (club in parentheses):

Goalkeepers – Dany Carvajal (Saprissa), Leonel Moreira (Herediano), Patrick Pemberton (Alajuelense)
Defenders – Johnny Acosta (Herediano), Francisco Calvo (Minnesota United FC), Christian Gamboa (Celtic), Giancarlo Gonzalez (Palermo), Kenner Gutierrez (Alajuelense), Ronald Matarrita (New York City FC), Bryan Oviedo (Sunderland), Jose Salvatierra (Alajuelense), Michael Umaña (Unattached)
Midfielders – Randall Azofeifa (Herediano), Joel Campbell (Arsenal), David Guzman (Portland Timbers), Bryan Ruiz (Sporting CP), Ulises Segura (Saprissa), Yeltsin Tejeda (FC Lausanne-Sport), Rodney Wallace (New York City FC)
Forwards – David Ramirez (Saprissa), Ariel Rodriguez (Bangkok Glass FC), Marco Ureña (San Jose Earthquakes), Johan Venegas (Minnesota United FC)

Honduras

Los Catrachos have been on a historic run the last decade in CONCACAF. They’ve made it to the last two World Cups after not qualifying since 1982. That veteran core is starting to age out now and the hopes for the 2018 World Cup look slim. Víctor Bernárdez and Noel Valladares. This Gold Cup will feature Captain Maynor Figueroa and Oscar Boniek Garcia, but this could be their last major tournament.

The squad is inexperienced and unproven: no player has more than 7 goals internationally. But they do have talent. Houston Dynamo fans will recognize forwards Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto. Both could play huge roles with this team.

Honduras will be looking to get a draw in their opening game against Costa Rica. Their fate will probably be decided in their second match against Canada. A win, and they’ll likely finish top two. A loss, and they’ll be fighting for a best third spot, possibly through goal differential.

Player to watch: Anthony Lozano – The 25-year-old has been excellent in the Spanish second division the last two years. He’s approaching a move to Barcelona, where he’ll likely be starting for Barcelona B. Expect him to start and be the focal point of the attack this tournament.

Squad (club in parentheses):

Goalkeepers – Ricardo Canales (CDS Vida), Donis Escober (Olimpia), Luis Lopez (Real España)
Defenders – Ever Alvarado (Olimpia), Brayan Beckeles (Necaxa), Felix Crisanto (Motagua), Henry Figueroa (Motagua), Maynor Figueroa (FC Dallas), Marcelo Pereira (Motagua), Carlos Sanchez (Honduras Progreso), Allans Vargas (Real España)
Midfielders – Bryan Acosta (Real España), Jorge Claros (Real España), Carlos Discua (Motagua), Boniek Garcia (Houston Dynamo), Ovidio Lanza (Juticalpa FC), Alex Lopez (Olimpia), Alfredo Mejia (Xanthi FC), Sergio Peña (Real Sociedad)
Forwards – Alberth Elis (Houston Dynamo), Anthony Lozano (Tenerife), Rony Martinez (Real Sociedad), Romell Quioto (Houston Dynamo)

French Guiana

French Guiana is a country technically on the South American continent. They are not an official FIFA member and this is their first ever appearance in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. They got here by way of finishing 3rd in the Caribbean Cup. That was their first time getting out of the Group Stage. This is minnow of the tournament.

I’ll be honest, I’ve never seen this team play before. The majority of their squad plays in the French Guyana Championnat National (the country’s first division) or in the lower leagues in France. Rhudy Evens is the most experienced player on the squad with 40 caps at 29-years-old.

Expect Les Yana Dòkòs to play bunker football in their three group stage games. We’ll see what they can do in the opening match against Canada. After that, they could be looking for two scoreless draws against Honduras and Costa Rica. They’ll be hoping that Los Ticos wrap the group up early, so they get a reserve team in their final match.

Player to watch: Sloan Privat – The 27-year-old has 6 goals in just 3 caps internationally. All three of those games were in Gold Cup qualification or the Caribbean Cup from this calendar year. He plays for midtable Ligue 1 side En Avant de Guingamp in France.

Squad (club in parentheses):

Goalkeepers – Donovan Leon (Stade Brestois 29), Simon Lugier (US Saint-Malo), Jean-Banuel Petit-Homme (US Matoury)
Defenders – Inrick Baal (CSC de Cayenne), Jean-David Legrand (Stade Bordelais), Gregory Lescot (FC Chartres), Kevin Rimane (Paris Saint-Germain), Hugues Rosime (US Matoury), Anthony Soubervie (FC Chambly), Marvin Torvic (US Matoury)
Midfielders – Loic Baal (ASM Belfort), Ludovic Baal (Stade Rennais), Marc Edwige (CSC de Cayenne), Cedric Fabien (Tarbes Pyrenees Football), Miguel Haabo (AS Etoile Matoury), Florent Malouda (Delhi Dynamos)
Forwards – Arnold Abelinti (JA Drancy), Roy Contout (Renaissance de Berkane), Schaquille Dutard (Guingamp), Rhudy Evens (US Matoury), Jules Haabo (AS Etoile Matoury), Sloan Privat (Guingamp), Mickael Solvi (US Matoury)

Group A Schedule:

Friday July 7th: Red Bull Arena – Harrison, NJ
French Guiana vs Canada, 7:00 PM EST
Honduras vs Costa Rica, 9:00 PM EST

Tuesday July 11th: BBVA Compass Stadium – Houston, TX
Costa Rica vs Canada, 7:30 PM EST
Honduras vs French Guiana, 10:00 PM EST

Friday July 14th: Toyota Stadium – Frisco, TX
Costa Rica vs French Guiana, 7:30 PM EST
Canada vs Honduras, 10:00 PM EST

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