The quarterfinals of the 2015 Gold Cup provided little to no surprise Saturday as the two matches largely went according to plan. Maybe Sunday will bring a little more unpredictability.
The United States were met with little resistance from a threadbare Cuba side and brushed them aside 6-0. Clint Dempsey marked the occasion with a hat trick, which puts him in good company in U.S. soccer history:
In Saturday's other match, Jamaica beat Haiti 1-0 after a seventh-minute goal from Giles Barnes. The Reggae Boyz will play the hosts in Wednesday's semifinals.
With that matchup locked in, let's look ahead to today's two fixtures and analyze which countries have the best chance of advancing.
|Sat., July 18||United States vs. Cuba||United States win, 6-0|
|Sat., July 18||Haiti vs. Jamaica||Jamaica win, 1-0|
|Sun., July 19||Trinidad and Tobago vs. Panama||4:30 p.m. ET|
|Sun., July 19||Mexico vs. Costa Rica||7:30 p.m. ET|
|Source: Fox Soccer|
The expectation for seemingly every iteration of the Gold Cup is for the United States and Mexico to meet in the final. Since the tournament was branded the Gold Cup in 1991, the two countries have captured the title in all but one edition—2000, Canada.
The U.S. are holding up their end of the bargain so far, and now it's up to El Tri to do the same.
Like the United States, Mexico haven't looked entirely convincing so far. Their lone win came against Cuba, while they had a scoreless draw with Guatemala and allowed four goals to Trinidad and Tobago.
According to ESPN FC's Tom Marshall, the disappointing run may be causing dissension in the ranks. Citing a story from Record, a Mexican newspaper, Marshall wrote, "Mexico's players (among them Hernandez, Guardado and Porto's Hector Herrera) were not happy with Herrera's running of the team and had held a meeting to discuss recent poor results, without the coach being present."
Marshall then added the players are at least throwing their public support behind Herrera.
Still, imagine the reaction in Mexico if the squad falls to Costa Rica in the quarterfinals. Herrera would probably have to find his own way back home because he'd be out of a job.
The good news is Costa Rica resemble little of the side that reached the final eight of the 2014 World Cup. The players are mostly the same, but Paulo Wanchope isn't the level of manager Jorge Luis Pinto is.
Wanchope seemed to hint his team will play a more proactive style and not sit back and defend, as noted by ESPN Tri:
Given the fact Costa Rica scored three goals and earned three draws in the group stage, it would be more likely they do allow Mexico to dictate the pace of the match and dominate possession. Guatemala used a similar strategy to great effect.
Mexico will have a little more to play for this time around. Not only will they want to advance to the semifinals, but the fate of their manager might also hang on the result.
The stakes aren't as high in that regard for Trinidad and Tobago and Panama, but both countries will be hungry to reach the quarterfinals.
Trinidad and Tobago were one of the bigger surprises in the group stage after they topped Group C. Yohance Marshall's goal right at the death against Mexico secured the top spot:
"To be honest, I think before the tournament started a lot of people had written (us) off," said Trinidadian midfielder Andre Boucaud before the draw with Mexico, per Goal.com's Ben Valentine. "I think we’ve proved a lot of people wrong. Obviously proving people wrong and getting results breeds confidence in the camp."
Just imagine how high confidence in the Trinidad and Tobago camp must be now.
They've been one of the more fun teams to watch so far, scoring nine goals in three games. You wonder if Panama—like Costa Rica—will be forced to alter their style in order to cope with the pressure they're likely to see.
In the first half of their 1-1 draw with the U.S., Panama demonstrated how good they can be going forward. But that tactic might leave them a bit exposed against Trinidad and Tobago if they play that way for the full 90 minutes.
Self-preservation is the key in any knockout tournament. Hernan Dario Gomez would be willing to sacrifice beauty if it means advancing in the Gold Cup.