Friday, July 10, 2015

Gold Cup Round Up: After Round One. Round One.

These are the results. And that's the ocean. Or one of the Great Lakes.
Now that I know I won't see all, or maybe even part of tomorrow night's, uh, second, first-round game between the United States and Haiti (or even the subsequent game that pits Honduras v. Panama), I've been trying to figure out what to with all that real estate I cleared in this space to cover the Gold Cup. A couple waves washed over me (some better than others, much like on a beach), I think I came up with something that can be useful, even absent direct observation of all the games under discussion.

Still, let the record show that I really do hope to catch a chunk or two of the U.S. v. Haiti game. It's just life that’s in the way. Again.

At any rate, the idea is that when I can't take in games, I'll at least do some research and put up a little framing for the tournament as it progresses. Call it being relevant, where I can't be authoritative, or even informative. (Then again, when the hell am I ever authoritative?) I plan on posting...something, no matter how loosey-goosey, after each round of games for all teams within this, uh, current, and ongoing, first round of the Gold Cup, e.g. the round-robin phase. Hence the awkward title, "After Round One, Round One," which, here, means the point in the first round of the Gold Cup when all the teams in all three groups has played, first, one game, then two games. When the latter happens, I'll subtitle the recap, "After Round One, Round Two." Get it?

Whatever happens with the mess above, tonight will take the form of so much spit-balling about the first round of results in the context of the first round of the Gold Cup. (Again, are we tracking? Sorry to use a legal term.) My only hope is that someone finds something useful down below.

Group A, After Round One, Round One
I posted my thoughts on one and a half games of action immediately after both games on Tuesday, but, big picture, the first round of games helped Group A set up still more favorably for the United States Men's National Team. Panama isn't wearing the pressure of expectations all that comfortably, while Haiti looks more eager than ready: and those are the two teams the U.S. has to beat or manage in order to reach the quarterfinals. And, yes, the U.S. will reach the quarterfinals: there’s no friggin' way we fall to both Haiti and Panama. Honduras looked good, too, in spite of the loss; and not at all defensive as people have pointed out.

Pause for an informative interlude...

Best Goal of the Round One, Round One
While there were prettier goals (Guatemalan/Los Angeles Galaxy legend Carlos Ruiz took a pull off an old bottle to cork his goal, for instance; around the 2:00 mark), the entry pass that put Mexico's Oribe Peralta through for his spit-shined finish made that goal one with ample sabor (for this one, start watching around 1:25).

Best Save of Round One, Round One
I'm not even sure the ball would have gone in, but, because I'm a sucker for defenders being in position to clear the ball off the line, I'm going with Panama’s Adolfo Machado flailing away Haiti’'s Jeff Louis' lob in the general direction of goal (start watching about the 1:49 mark).

Best Big Site for Tracking the Gold Cup
Put it this way: no U.S. soccer sites exactly put broad coverage of the other Gold Cup teams front and center – by which I mean that, at a glance, one has to think about how to approach the site to get to broad coverage out of it. Fortunately, coverage of the U.S. falls off these things like so much water down a gutter (i.e. it keeps coming whether we want it or not) and they all do produce good to serviceable work on the U.S. Men. My sample size isn’t huge (e.g.,, Sports Illustrated's Planet Futbol,, Soccer By Ives, etc. – the usual, low-hanging round-up, basically). does pretty well with covering Canada on its front page, and that's good even if it's partially self-preservation. To pick the best of the big outlets, I'll go with ESPN Soccer's coverage, if mostly for how much more available they make their coverage (I found it quickly in their fairly-clearly presented drop menus; then again, does pretty well once anyone familiar with that site’s layout takes the time to think about where to look.) If anyone has better sources, please do pass them on. Thanks!

OK, moving on.

Group B, After Round One, Round One
Costa Rica's come-back draw (ugly phrase) against Jamaica sure as Hell sounds like the game of the opening round. Why not believe that Jamaica blooding themselves in the recently concluded Copa America, no matter how badly that went, didn’t get them all riled up for the current tournament? Or maybe it's that Costa Rica lost more than they appreciated when Jorge Luis Pinto took his mighty mind to the Honduran brain trust? Whatever happened sure looked scintillating on ether. And, by the highlights, for that was all I had (damn, I have to re-examine my soccer-viewing/life schedule, get with the goddamn program). Jamaica might have been the better of Group B's (seemingly) two best teams. And that should keep Canada up at night through the end of July.

I'm going to pause here to wish I didn't read so many of the Gold Cup previews on my phone because, with two devices in play, I'm having a hell of a time figuring out whether the "players to watch" in those previews bear any relation to the players scoring the goals in these games. That said, I'm confident no preview flagged Costa Rica's Roy Miller as a major scoring threat, even if David Ramirez's name came up). Screw the previews, let players write their own legend in Gold Cup history, as opposed to asking who did or didn't live up to expectations...

...Which brings the conversation to Canada, and their goal-less draw against El Salvador. My first thought is, how nice to hear Arturo Alvarez' name again. Big fan of that guy, back in his MLS days. Anyway, a lot of the talk on this one lead with Cyle Larin's swing-and-a-whiff on the open net (but what if it doesn't happen just that one time, kid?, that is really fucking terrible (start about 0:48); he's probably right). The pair of articles I read reported favorably on El Salvador's outing. It's enough to make one wonder if the "toughest group" pre-tournament talk didn't tap the wrong group (as in, maybe it's Group B that fits the bill, not Group A).

Group C, Post-Round One
For anyone stepping into the Gold Cup cold, the shock of the first round came with Trinidad & Tobago’s 3-1 win over Guatemala. With Los Chapines (that's Guatemala) one of CONCACAF's leaders at hacking their way to close or even results, a 1-0 win, and for either side, or a draw seemed the likelier result. That said, ignorance of the latest trends in CONCACAF abound in that argument and the clearest corrective I can offer to that takes nothing more than looking at MLS's representation in the contest: if you had to choose between T & T’s Cordell Cato, Joevin Jones and Kevan George versus Guatemala's Marco Pappa, Elias Vasquez and Moises Hernandez...well, I know my vote (same link as the 3-1...never mind; again). And the result seconded that motion (as in, one doesn't have to look hard to find Cato and Jones in here). Nice start for T & T, and Guatemala is surely thankful that the Gold Cup's set up has two of the three third-place teams carry on.

And, of course, Mexico kicked the holy shit out of Cuba, courtesy of one gut-wrenching failure to clear after another. Then again, America's new best friend, and brightest new market (that's Cuba) came into the game double-fucked, courtesy of missing (if only in Antigua) and/or defected players. (Scant word on the defector so far; small wonder he wants a bigger market, maybe a Youtube compilation). Oh, and the head coach was stuck, too (also in Antigua). Anyway, maybe the defector will find a team up here, maybe even in MLS if he’s any good. God knows MLS clubs need strikers and, with no track record and, therefore, few arguments for a big pay-day, the risk isn’t so big (at least outside his status as a foreign national). I dunno, maybe some club will take the plunge. Anyway, yeah, Mexico won. It wasn't close. Also, does Miguel Herrera always look like he has to take a shit?
The Match-Ups, Round One, Round Two
Honduras v. Panama (Group A, July 10, 3 p.m.)
United States v. Haiti (Group A, July 10, 5:30 p.m.)
Jamaica v. Canada (Group B, July 11, 2:30 p.m.)
Costa Rica v. El Salvador (Group B, July 11, 6:00 p.m.)
Trinidad & Tobago v. Cuba (Group C, July 12, 3:30 p.m.)
Guatemala v. Mexico (Group C, July 12, 6 p.m.)
Thoughts on Said Match-Ups
For Group A, I expect Honduras and the U.S. to take hold of the group; and, yes, that's short-hand for arguing that Honduras impressed me more than Panama. As much as I'd love to make time for Costa Rica v. El Salvador, that just ain't in the cards, life-wise. For Canada, the game against Jamaica sure looks like a last-chance saloon (though, is Costa Rica what the same team from 2014?). One of those lost previews I found talked up Guatemala v. Mexico as the marguee match-up for Group C, but the Round One, Round One results make me wonder if Mexico v. T & T isn't the one to watch. And that only goes double if T & T wins. Another team in the same group as Mexico on six points should give Los Tricolores something to worry a second-place finish and all that could mean.

Who said this stuff's not exciting? As I said at the top, I hope this was helpful to someone. I'm hopeful that I'll catch at least one game on Sunday, but I've got to work that in with the replay of the Timbers game against Philadelphia that I hope to find the same day. (And that has to come on top of shopping, exercising, fixing two toilets, and finding some time for some relaxation on Sunday as well). That said, I will make U.S. v. Panama on Monday, goddammit!! And Haiti v. Honduras. My foot is headed firmly to a "down" position as we speak.

Whatever happens, I'll squeeze in all the reading I can to cover the games I can't watch, so I have some idea of what's going on when the quarterfinals roll around. Right, till Sunday or Monday!

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