US Men Falter, But Are Through

A week and a half ago we previewed the US Men heading into group play of the Gold Cup. The team, in 24 group games in Gold Cup history had never lost, and only tied a couple times. Naturally I predicted a dominating performance by the US, another 9-point performance, and a second round game vs. a “gimme” opponent.

The US Started out well, in a 2-0 win over Canada in Detroit. Problems began in Tampa when Panama got an early goal, added a penalty kick goal, and played JUST enough defense to hold off the US 2-1, despite a second half charge.

Wondolowski can't believe he misses the equalizer from point blank range

Chris Wondolowski had a great look late to tie the match, but it wasn’t to be as he missed an attempt he would probably bury 8-9 times out of ten. The US in unfamiliar territory faced a humbling reality. Win or Draw vs. an at times dangerous Guadaloupe team, or they would be out. That’s right, a loss vs. Guadaloupe would put the number 1 team in the tournament out, when 8 of 12 total teams move on.

The US came out vs. Guadaloupe looking a lot like they did vs. Panama.  Guadaloupe had an early look, where a shot hit the crossbar.  They nearly went down 1-0.  But then the light switch flipped.  Led off by a Jozy Altidore Wonderstrike, the US took a 1-0 lead, and dominated the half.  The problem was the finishing.

The US had a fantastic 17-4 shots on goal ratio after 90 minutes, but won just 1-0.  Dempsey was the one who struggled finishing the most, missing 2 or 3 seemingly easy goals, including missing a sitter where the ball was placed right at his feet, right in front of the net and the goalie out of the picture.  But, the good news is, the US still dominated despite the score, and are moving on.  Lets take a look at how our group phase panned out vs. my predictions.

Group A Prediction:
Mexico (3 Wins 0 Losses 0 Draws) – 9
Costa Rica (2 Wins 1 Loss 0 Draws) – 6
Cuba (1 Win 2 Losses 0 Draws) – 3
El Salvador (0 Wins 3 Losses 0 Draws) – 0

Reality:
Mexico (3 Wins 0 Losses 0 Draws) – 9
Costa Rica (1 Win 1 Loss 1 Draw) – 4
El Salvador (1 Win 1 Loss 1 Draw) – 4
Cubs (0 Wins 3 Losses 0 Draws) – 0

Analysis:
Mexico showed themselves as the favorite to win their 6th Gold Cup dominating their way through the group. Cuba was the biggest let down of the tournament. Ranked the 6th best team in the tournament before hand, they went 0-fer and were dominated in almost all three games.

Group B Prediction:
Jamaica (2 Wins 0 Losses 1 Draw) – 7
Honduras (2 Wins 0 Losses 1 Draw) – 7
Guatemala (1 Win 2 Losses 0 Draws) – 3
Grenada (0 Wins 3 Losses 0 Draws) – 0

Reality:
Jamaica (3 Wins 0 Losses 0 Draws) – 9
Honduras (1 Win 1 Loss 1 Draw) – 4
Guatemala (1 Win 1 Loss 1 Draw) – 4
Grenada (0 Wins 3 Losses 0 Draws) – 0

Analysis:
I said this was the best Jamaica team we’ve seen in a while, and they even surprised me. A 1-0 win vs. Honduras while resting a lot of starters was impressive. Honduras disappointed some, and don’t seem to be a favorite to return to the World Cup, at least at this pace.

Group C Prediction:
United States (3 wins 0 Losses 0 Draws) – 9
Panama (1 Wins 1 Loss 1 Draws) – 4
Canada (1 Win 2 Losses 0 Draws) – 3
Guadeloupe (0 Wins 2 Losses 1 Draw) – 1

Reality:
Panama (2 Wins 0 Losses 1 Draw) – 7
USA (2 Wins 1 Loss 0 Draws) – 6
Canada (1 Win 1 Loss 1 Draw) – 4
Guadaloupe (0 Wins 3 Losses 0 Draws) – 0

Analysis:
Panama stuns everyone and wins the group.  However, they needed a PK to beat the US, and a 10 man squad to beat Guadaloupe.  They’re still upset prone.  If the US can finish, they’re still strong threats to win it all.  Canada was very disappointing, not scoring a goal during play all tournament, as they needed 2 PKs to yield both goals.  While Guadaloupe was 0-3, they only lost by 1 to each opponent, and had 10 men for 2 of the 3 games due to red cards.

Tournament

A1 Mexico vs. B3 Guatemala
Mexico has dominated this tournament so far, and Guatemala is not about to be the squad that ends it.  Mexico wins easily 3-0.

A2 Costa Rica vs. B2 Honduras
A battle of rivals who finished amazingly close in World Cup qualifying in 09, with Honduras moving on.  This match is very even, but Costa Rica gets some revenge, and wins 2-1 in extra time.

C1 Panama vs. A3 El Salvador
Panama may have performed better than they are in group stage, but they got lucky here with the draw.  They get by El Salvador 2-0, after getting a couple early goals and backing off.

B1 Jamaica vs. C2 USA
I’d first like to point out that Jamaica gets royally screwed here. They finished tied for the most points in round one, and have to play maybe the best team in the whole tournament in round two in the US. They scored more points than Panama, yet get a much tougher opponent. The US have yet to play like a team that could win this Gold Cup however.

At the strikers position Altidore has been a pleasant surprise notching two goals, but they’ve struggled with who is along side him. Agudelo started the first two matches without scoring.  Wondolowski started the third match, and didn’t score. The midfield is the USA’s strength and will be here. Dempsey and Donovan are both missing practice due to a sister’s wedding, but will be on the pitch vs. Jamaica.

I also expect Bradley and Jermaine Jones to start after a nice game 3 for Jermaine. On the defensive side, Eric Lichaj took over LB and played very well.  Expect him to stay there. Bocanegra moved over and replaced a struggling Tim Ream.  Goodson has been shaky at times at RCB, but expect him to start. He’s also yielded a goal on a header vs. Panama. Cherundolo will almost guaranteed start at RB vs. Jamaica, and has played great all tournament.  Here’s my expected starting 11 for the USA

Jamaica is very talented and shouldn’t be overlooked.  Dane Richards is a very dangerous forward who is faster than any US player.  Jamaica has always had athleticism and speed, but at times have lacked discipline.  Well, they’ve got enough discipline to be dangerous now.  Their defense sometimes falters and allows for good scoring chances, although they didn’t allow any in group play.  Jamaica has every possibility of pulling off this upset.  But in the end, the Americans take it 2-1 with a late goal by Dempsey.

Predicted Round of 4:

Mexico vs. Costa Rica and USA  vs. Panama

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