Gold Cup 2013: Players Who Will Star in Knockout Stage
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With eight teams now remaining in the Gold Cup, the tournament's quarterfinals are set to begin this weekend.
While the undefeated United States has seen all-around good performance from several of its players, Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica will all look to some of their bigger offensive threats to carry their respective teams into the semis.
While Mexico has often been a powerhouse in the soccer world, it's been a massive disappointment this year.
El Tri is in danger of becoming irrelevant if someone doesn't come alive. The 23-year-old phenom Fabian—Mexico's most dominant striker so far in the tournament—will be that guy.
Entering the knockout round, Fabian has scored three goals, and none of his teammates have proved to be the kind of threat he's been on offense.
Tom Marshall of ESPN FC wrote several days ago that the stakes are high for Fabian, as success now will lead to playing time in the World Cup, which will in turn likely draw interest from high-profile European clubs that the young talent covets.
Although Wondolowski was silent in the Unites States' most recent game against Costa Rica, his explosiveness led his team past both Belize and Cuba.
His five goals in three games leads all players in the Gold Cup by at least a two-goal margin, and his back-to-back games with multiple goals made history.
What's even more impressive is he did it in under 200 minutes of playing time.
While teammate Landon Donovan has impressed as well, he's always a wild card. The United States' play hasn't been the cleanest at times, but Wondolowski has carried the team through, and will likely do so come Sunday against El Salvador too.
Panama's Torres has been the definition of clutch this tournament.
While Wondolowski has put up the big numbers, Torres knows how to score when it counts. He's been creating space and firing off tough shots admirably, and he has three tournament goals to show for it.
Torres has played nearly 100 fewer minutes than the rest of those who have converted three shots, so he clearly doesn't get fazed by pressure and is making his time on the field count—impressive for such a young player.
Writers such as Simon Borg of MLS.com think Saborio should be recognized as much as high-profile guys like Wondolowski.
He is already a must-watch in Costa Rica's game against Honduras on the 21st. The captain is one of the more intelligent minds in the game, and of the players left in the tournament, Saborio is highest on goal.com's 10 Non-USA Players to Watch list.
While he's been banged up a bit, Saborio has gotten more rest recently and so may be back to full strength come Sunday.
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