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Gold Cup Group C Preview

 Posted by on July 9, 2013 at 11:06 pm  Blogs/Media
Jul 092013

Logo GoldCup2 300x134 Gold Cup Group C Preview


Expected Finish

First: The United States

Second: Costa Rica

Third: Cuba

Fourth: Belize



How Did They Qualify: Finished 4th in the 2012 Copa Centroamericana

Current Status in World Cup Qualifying: Eliminated in the Second Round.

History: This is their first major international tournament.

Coach: Ian Mork

Roster: Goalkeepers: Woodrow West (Belmopan Bandits-Belize,) Frank Lopez (Belize Defence Force,) and Shane Orio (Marathon-Honduras;) Defenders: Kahlil Velasquez (Police United-Belize,) Ian Gaynair (Belmopan Bandits,) Elroy Smith (Deportes Savio-Belize,) Dalton Eiley (Placencia Assassins- Belize,) Evral Trapp (Verdes F.C.-Belize,) Tyrone Pandy (Belize Defence Force;) Midfielders: David Trapp (Belmopan Bandits,) Trevor Lennan (Police United,) Elroy Kuylen (Unattached,) Andres Makin Jr. (Police United,) Devon Makin (Police United,) Harrison Tasher (Police United,) and MF Luis Torres (Placencia Assassins;) Forwards: Evan Mariano (Police United,) Deon McCaulay (Belmopan Bandits,) Harrison Roches (Belize Defence Force,) Michael Salzaar (University of California-Riverside,) Ashley Torres (Verde F.C.,) Daniel Jimenez (Police United,) and Lennox Castillo (Police United.)


It would be foolish to say that any country is simply happy to be at a tournament and not want to win, but for Belize in their first major international tournament it would seem that this would be the case. A team with only two professional players, a team whose players are primarily made up of members of Belize’s force and military, this is the true definition of a Cinderella team. Belize secured their spot in the 2013 Gold Cup in pure Cinderella fashion: a splendid flick off the left foot of all-time leading goal scorer Devin McCaulay to down Nicaragua 2-1. Belize quite well for themselves in the 2013 Centroamericana, only losing 1-0 to Honduras in the Semifinals and 1-0 to El Salvador in the Third Place game. So there is cause for optimism with this squad. A lot of credit goes to coach Ian Mork. Mork, a former player for the National Professional Soccer League’s Wichita Wings, has turned this team from a club that only scored a point in the 2009 Copa Centroamericana to a club that sees itself playing the United States in Portland on Tuesday night.

One thing that Belize has in its favor is a seasoned netminder in Shane Orio. The starting goalkeeper for Honduran giants Marathon, Orio has also played for Puntarenas F.C. and A.D. Ramonese in the Costa Rican first division. He has tremendous poise in the box, and is able to keep Belize in games that they probably should not be in, such as the match played against Mexico. The thing that was most impressive when watching his highlights is his vision: he never seems to lose track of the ball and was able to anticipate his opponent’s movement. It seems like a very simple skill to achieve, but not everyone gets it.  He could prove to be a difference-maker in the match against Cuba.

Despite having a top quality keeper, this is Belize’s first international tournament and their should be plenty of struggles. Although Belize has played against Costa Rica in the past, they will be playing against a Costa Rica squad that is coming off of a successful World Cup Qualifying run. And of course the United States is one of CONCACAF’s best clubs. That being said, I do like Belize’s chances to pull off a few goals in this tournament. Neither of the aforementioned clubs is bringing their top players, and Cuba is certainly beatable. A draw in that match would be considered a success for this young, fledgling club.

Drink of Choice:  Panty Ripper

While I normally choose a beer to pair with a team, I am going to take a different approach for Belize and go with a mixed drink. Why you say? So a quick backstory: my old alma mater McDaniel College usually takes a group of college students every January to Belize to go deep sea diving, fishing, and get unhealthy amounts of UV rays. Well according to many alumni (and my favorite Political Science professor Dr. Herb Smith,) the best drink to have in Belize is the Panty Ripper. Aside from the interesting name, it is a drink composed of coconut rum and pineapple juice. Belize is very widely known for its Coconut Rum, and usually has a much higher proof than that crappy Malibu Rum that you had when you were 17. So when you are watching Belize grit it out against the United States in Portland tonight, put down your Ale and grab a Panty Ripper.


Costa Rica

How Did They Qualify:  Winner of the 2013 Copa Centroamericana

Current Status in World Cup Qualifying: Second Place in CONCACAF

History: 3-time winners of the CONCACAF Championships, the predecessor to the Gold Cup (1963,1969, and 1989,) Runners-up in the 2002 Gold Cup, 7-Time Winner of the Copa Centroamericana (1991, 1997, 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2013,) Fifth place in the 2001 Copa America, and has participated in three World Cups (1990, 2002, and 2006.)

Coach:  Jorge Luis Pinto

Roster: Goalkeepers: Leonel Moreira (Herediano-Costa Rica,) Patrick Pemberton (Alajuelense-Costa Rica,) and Luis Torres (Cartagines-Costa Rica,) Defenders: Jhonny Acosta(Alajuelense,) Michael Umana (Saprissa-Costa Rica,) Juan Diego Madrigal (Saprissa,) Christopher Meneses (Norrkoping-Sweden,) Junior Diaz (Mainz 05-Germany,) Carlos Johnson (Cartagines,) and Roy Miller (New York Red Bulls,) Midfielders: Giancarlo Gonzalez  (Valerenga-Norway,)  Mauricio Castillo (Saprissa,) Osvaldo Rodriguez (Santos de Guapiles-Costa Rica,) Ariel Rodriguez (Alajuelense,)  Yeltsin Tejeda (Saprissa,) Rodney Wallace (Portland Timbers,) and Esteban Granados (Herediano,) Forwards: Celso Borges (AIK-Sweden,) Kenny Cunningham (The Strongest-Bolivia,) Alvaro Saborio (Real Salt Lake,) Michael Barrantes (Aalesund-Norway,) Yendrick Ruiz (Herediano,) and Jairo Arrieta (Columbus Crew.)

Although CONCACAF is typically viewed as a Federation consisting of Mexico, U.S.A., and everybody else, Costa Rica has shown themselves in recent years to be as good as Mexico and the United States. The Tica’s, as they are commonly known by, have participated in two of the last three World Cups (narrowly missing out to Honduras in 2010,) and finished no worse than the Quarterfinals in the last 8 Gold Cups.  They are also unquestionably the best team in Central America, having won or finished second in 11 of 12 Copa Centroamericanas. This is a team that is coming off of a very successful run of World Cup Qualifying matches, having only lost once to the United States in the snowmageddon match.

Unlike many of their competitors in this tournament, Costa Rica has elected to bring most of their regulars in. Only Goalkeeper Keilor Lavas of Levante, Captain Bryan Ruiz of Fulham, and midfielder Joel Campbell of Arsenal are missing. Although these are three key players to the team’s World Cup aspirations, for the purposes of the Gold Cup they have three quality replacements in Patrick Pemberton, Rodney Wallace, and Yeltsin Tejeda. All three are key contributors for the club teams and should be able to work well with the rest of the starting 11. The rest of the squad is primarily made up of Costa Rica three best clubs: Deportivo Saprissa, LD Alajuelense, and CS Herediano. Combined, these clubs have won 80 Costa Rican Champions (Note: There are two Championships . One for the fall and one for the spring.)

Having had the opportunity to watch many of Alvaro Saborio’s matches for Real Salt Lake this season, I can say that any fans that attend Costa Rica’s games will be in for a show. He is one of the most dynamic scorers that I have ever seen in MLS. While he has been a great goal scorer for club and country, one of his best attributes is his unselfishness. Rather than taking the risky shot, he is always willing to pass the ball to the more open attacking player. For RSL the main benefactor of this behavior has been Robbie Findley. For Costa Rica, his main strike partner is Celso Borges.  At 25, Borges is coming into his own as a striker having scored the winning goal in Costa Rica’s win over Panama last month. He only has 3 goals in 12 matches so far this season for his club AIK in Sweden, but a good performance in the Gold Cup may lift his stock. Jairo Arrieta is also a solid backup

This is Costa Rica’s tournament to lose. In a year where both the United States and Mexico are sending their “B” squads, Costa Rica should be able to defeat the giants of CONCACAF. They are treading in unchartered territory. Since 1991, the only team outside of the United States and Mexico to win the Gold Cup was Canada in 2000. That was also the only year where neither Mexico nor the United States made the Gold Cup Final. Although the Costa Rican national team has made many strides in the past few years, even knocking off a U.S. or Mexico “B” squad is a tough ask. But with their recent run of form in World Cup Qualifying and having only lost 3 times in the past two years, they may finally do it.

Beer of Choice: Libertas Tropical Golden Ale

I first had this beer almost four years ago after my kickball team got thrashed pretty handily by a bunch of friendly gentleman named the Destroyers. In no mood for a Miller Light, I asked for a Costa Rican beer since there was a replay of a Costa Rica-USA game going on. While other people played flip cup with cheaper and probably less alcoholic beers I chose the Lbertas Golden Ale. I am huge fan of any Golden Ale beers because they are not as strong as the India Pale Ales, but not as light as a Lager. Golden Ales just go great with any occasion and really work well with Costa Rica because I have never been bored with a Costa Rica match. I thoroughly enjoy their style of play and the beer that their country makes. Oh and my kickball team won in elimination flip cup in one of the most memorable comebacks ever. There is the 2003 Boston Red Sox, the 1997-1998 Chicago Bulls, and my friend Nate taking on an entire team and winning.


How Did They Qualify:  Won the 2012 Caribbean Cup

Current Status in World Cup Qualifying: Eliminated in the Third Round

History: Participated in the 1938 World Cup and Won the 2012 Caribbean Cup.

Coach: Walter Benitez

Roster: Goalkeepers: Odelin Medina (F.C. Villa Clara,) GK Julio Ramos (F.C. Las Tunas,) and Diosvelis Alejandro (F.C. Artemisa.) Defenders: Michel Marquez (F.C. Isla de Juventud,) Yasmani Lopez (F.C. Ciego de Avila,) Jorge Luis Clavelo (F.C. Villa Clara,) Yoel Colome (F.C. La Habana,) Renay Malblanche (F.C. Holguin,) Alannis Urgelles (F.C. Guantanamo,) and Angel Horta (F.C. Camaguey;) Midfielders: Yenier Marquez (F.C. Villa Clara,) Armando Coroneaux (F.C. Camaguey,) Jaime Colome (F.C. La Habana,) Miguel Angel Sanchez (F.C. Isla de Juventud,) Ariel Martinez (F.C. Sancti Spiritus,) Livan Perez (F.C. Camaguey,) Dairon Blanco (F.C. La Tunas,) and Alberto Gomez (F.C. Guantanamo;) Forwards: Jose Ciprian Alfonso (F.C. Pinar del Rio,) Alexei Zuasnabar (F.C. Cienfuegos,) and Yaandri Puga (F.C. Isla de Juventud.)


While Costa Rica and U.S.A. are well known throughout the region and the world as football powers, and Belize is looked at with interest because it is their first major international tournament, not much is known about this Cuban side. All of their players play in the Campeonato Nacional de Cuba, which is not really shown outside of Cuba. They also have not played in a friendly since March of 2012, when they drew with Uruguay. Cuba is not much of a footballing. Baseball and boxing are the country’s top two sports and there have not been many Cubans who have gone on to professional careers outside of the island. The best player that Cuba has ever produced is Osvaldo Alonso, who plays midfield for Seattle Sounders. Unfortunately because he defected from Cuba to the United States, he will probably never play for Cuba again. It is a pity that soccer really has never caught on in Cuba as most Cubans are very passionate about their sports.

There are some bright spots for this club. Their goalkeeper Odelin Molina, has over 106 caps for the squad and was part of the team that went to the Quarterfinals of the Gold Cup in 2002. They also have a pair of veteran midfielders in Yenier Marquez and Jaime Colome to depend on when the team will need to build their attack. Still, this is a very poor squad. During the second round of World Cup Qualifying, Cuba was only able to garner one point in a match at home against Panama. In addition, they only scored one goal and allowed in ten.

Things do not look very good for Cuba in this tournament. Against two very strong sides in Costa Rica and the United States, the porous Cuban defense will allow in quite a few goals. They may have a chance to secure a result against Belize, given Belize’s inexperience in tournament football. They may finish third, but given the strength of the other teams in Groups A and B, I do not see this team going to the second round.

Beer of Choice: Bucanero Beer

As with most things that come from Cuba, we Americans are not allowed to Cuban beer. Unless of course we get it from Canada and hide it in the trunks of our cars to avoid unsuspecting Mounties. So this Bucanero beer is a bit of mystery to me. I chose it as a beer of choice for two reasons: one, that is a pretty rad pirate on the cover of the can and two it says “Fuerte” on the can which means “Strong” in English. Based off Cuba’s limited performances over the past few years, any fan will need a strong beer to get through ninety minutes of poor football. I would also suggest an Arturo Fuente cigar.

The United States

How Did They Qualify:Automatic Qualification

Current Status in World Cup Qualifying: First Place in CONCACAF Qualifying

History: 4-Time Winner of the Gold Cup (1991, 2002, 2005, and 2007,) 5-Time Runners Up at the Gold Cup (1989, 1993, 1998, 2009, and 2011,) Runners Up at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, Fourth Place at the 1995 Copa America, and Has Participated in 9 World Cups (1930, 1934, 1950, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, and 2010.)

Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

Roster: Goalkeepers: Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake,) Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire,) and Bill Hamid (D.C. United;) Defenders: Edgar Castillo (Tijuana-Liga MX,) Corey Ashe (Houston Dynamo,) Michael Orozco Fiscal (Puebla-Mexico,) Oguchi Onyewu (Malaga- Spain,) DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla- Mexico,) Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake,) Michael Parkhurst (Augsburg-Germany,) Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes;) Midfielders: Joe Corona (Tijuana,) Mikkel Diskerud (Rosenborg-Norway,) Stuart Holden (Bolton-England,) Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake,) Jose Francisco Torres (UANL-Mexico,) Alejandro Bedoya (Helsingborg-Sweden,) and Break Shea (Stoke City-England;) Forwards: Herculez Gomez (Tijuana-Mexico,) Will Bruin (Houston Dynamo,) Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy,) and Jack McInerney (Philadelphia Union.)


It almost seems weird that the United States opens up the Gold Cup with little to no controversy. After beginning the year drawing against Canada and losing away to Honduras, it felt like it was going to be another ugly year for the Stars and Stripes. There were rumors of infighting amongst the players, players being upset with Jurgen Klinsmann, and just general ugly play. Even looking at the games against Costa Rica and Mexico, though they were quality results, the team just looked bad. But ever since getting trounced against Belgium, the team looks much better. Having essentially secured World Cup Qualification, Klinsmann can use the Gold Cup to build roster depth and give some of the younger players an opportunity to develop on an international stage. Oh, and to figure out what the hell to do with Landon Donovan.

While many soccer pundits feel that this squad is vastly inferior to the team that played last month, I would beg to differ. This squad has some very good veteran players, and a solid core of young players who are breaking out either in MLS or abroad. First, any team in CONCACAF would want a player like Nick Rimando on their World Cup squad. If the United States top two goalkeepers did not play for Everton and Aston Villa, Rimando would unquestionably be the number one keeper. He has led two teams to the MLS Cup (2004, and 2009,) and is only the second goalkeeper in MLS history to record 100 shutouts.  He reminds me of a shorter Gigi Buffon because he just seems to have a tremendous feel for his box and it almost seems like forwards get nervous around him. I am not sure how many players from this Gold Cup squad will make the World Cup team, but I am certain barring injuries that Rimando will be the number three goalkeeper behind Tim Howard and Brad Guzan.

Meanwhile, the trio of Oguchi Onyewu, DeMarcus Beasley, and Landon Donovan have played in a combined 316 games for the U.S.A. and 8 World Cups. It has been very interesting to see the career path of Beasley, who started out in the 2002 World Cup playing against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Figo and looking like their equals to sinking to near obscurity around 2010, only to come back into the National Team fold as a Left Back. Although many people see Landon Donovan as the player that is going to get back on the World Cup Qualifying squad, I think Onyewu would be the best addition. The U.S. has survived off of a motley crew of young defenders, it would be good to have a solid veteran defender that can come off of the bench, provide stability in close games, and crash the box for late goals. Onyewu can still do all of this.

I did want to spend a few lines talking about Landon Donovan and the U.S. Men’s National Team. What makes teams like Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Brazil so good is their ability to change over time. Aside from goalkeepers, very rarely do you see these squads holding on to their older players because of past glory. It was great to see Italy win the World Cup in 2006, but it was very obvious 2010 that they held on to too many of their older players.  While I am glad to see that Landon wants to play on the National Team again, I think it is also important that this team learns to win without him. I have always thought that the best role for Landon in this team going forward would be one similar to the role that Alessandro del Piero played in the 2006 World Cup. Not necessarily the role of the super sub, but someone who can give you 35-45 minutes of quality play. Part of the United States growing process as a soccer nation is learning how to transition from different eras. Based off of his play with the Los Angeles Galaxy, it is evident that Landon still has something to give to this game. It just can’t be the same role as 2002 or 2010.

The players though that will be the most exciting to watch are the younger players. Jack McInerney (10 goals this season) is having an MLS MVP caliber season and may very will win the Golden Boot with the Philadelphia Union. Edgar Castillo has really turned his career around with Tijuana, and played phenomenal defense in the Copa Libertadores against a much stronger Athletico Minero squad. But the best story has to be Stuart Holden. Having missed the past two years due to various knee injuries, it never seemed like he was ever going to be able to replicate the form that he showed while playing for Bolton in the 2010-2011 English Premier League season. He finally seems to be healthy and has slowly been working himself back into form. If he can remain healthy, he will be a critical piece of the team when they go to Brazil because he provides something that many American midfielders lack: creativity and flair. This Gold Cup could be his chance to show that he is back.

I really like this U.S.A. team, not because it seems to reflect the best parts of Major League Soccer, but because for once there is not any insane pressure on them. While there certainly is pressure for Landon Donovan to get back into form and get back into the National Team, it feels like a huge onus is lifted off of the U.S. camp because of their performances in the last month. That being said, there is no reason for this team to finish any worse than third. There are far too many good players on this team to be beaten by the likes of Belize and Cuba. Costa Rica will be a very difficult, and probably still upset over having to play in a blizzard. But they should make it through comfortably to the second round.


Beer of Choice: Dogfish Head Raison d’Etre

In covering Major League Soccer these past few months, I have been exposed to some really great teams and some really great beers throughout the United States. To be fair, I have also seen some god awful teams and drank some god awful beers as well. It is difficult choosing a beer for the United States National Team because I have had so many good ones. But I think I am going to go back to my favorite beer and one of my favorite games: the 2010 World Cup match between the U.S.A. and Slovenia. As per the usual with the United States, they somehow got behind early against a team they should been beating easily. My brother T.C. and I got in for the second half, and upon realizing the score decided we each needed a strong drink to tolerate a half of hell. He being the older and more financially secure brother ordered a Red Hook. Since I was still an intern, I felt emboldened for a stronger beer and went with Dogfish Head Raison d’Etre. It is an interesting beer because it starts out with a simple Ale taste ends up feeling like you are drinking a Belgian beer. It worked well with a half of football where the United States came back and somehow tied the game. So as I finish these Gold Cup previews, I am going to go downstairs crack a Dogfish head and watch the American Outlaws get a W against their hated rivals, Belize.

I will back on Thursday with five observations on the first round. Until then, enjoy the games!




Sean Maslin

Writer for Global Football Today and Blatter's Blotter. Lifetime D.C. United, Newcastle United, and Washington Warthog fan. Can be reached at @SeanMaslin on twitter or at

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