Jamaica's surprising hot start leads the way as Goal.com takes a look at the best and the worst of the Gold Cup group stages. Which team was the most disappointing? Take a look.Exiting the group stages of the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup, Jamaica has captivated the imaginations of fans across the region with its exhilarating style of play. Featuring a squad filled with MLS talent, the Reggae Boyz are putting on the best show in the competition aside from Mexico, utilizing its pace and power to play adventurously on offense.
Goal.com takes a look at the best and the worst of the Gold Cup’s opening stage:
Player of the group stages: Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Mexico
Proving that his stellar performances in Europe weren’t a result of playing with the world class talents at Manchester United, Hernandez continues to electrify the world soccer scene. In fact, a case could be made that he’s improved since leaving England as he has had two headed goals in despite only being 5’9’’.
Led by Demar Phillips and Dane Richards, Jamaica has proved that not all entertaining soccer has to be emulating the extreme technical prowess of Spain or Barcelona.
Relying on speed, dribbling and strong physical play, the Reggae Boyz just find a way to pull out results and put goals in the back of the net. Yes, it is appreciated when teams move the ball around but it is also highlight-worthy seeing Richards or Phillips dribble past two defenders to get scoring opportunities.
United States international goalkeeper Tim Howard said he looked forward to playing against Jamaica but prefaced it by admitting that he should be careful for what he wishes for.
Runner up: Panama
Underachiever: Costa Rica
Angry United States national teams fans are probably expecting to see the Stars and Stripes here, but in the end the team still won two of its three games. The biggest disappointment in the group stages was definitely the play of Costa Rica.
Featuring a squad filled with versatile forwards led by Bryan Ruiz and considered one of the dark horse favorites heading into the competition, Los Ticos has looked lethargic and uninspired. Its draw against El Salvador was dreadful and its 4-1 loss against an already-qualified Mexico squad was embarrassing. Don't be surprised if Costa Rica exits early against Honduras in the quarterfinals.
Runner up: United States
Surprising player: Demar Phillips, Jamaica
A late-blooming player who rode the bench at Stoke City for two years before moving to Norway to play for Aalesunds FK, Phillips has really put it all together during the Gold Cup. The diminutive midfielder hasn’t allowed his lack of size to prevent him scoring three goals or creating opportunities off the dribble. If he keeps this up, don’t be surprised if teams from bigger leagues start taking notice.
Disappointing player: Bryan Ruiz, Costa Rica
If Phillips' stock has gone up as a result of his play in the Gold Cup then the opposite must be said about Ruiz, who might never leave Holland’s Eredivisie if he continues his nonexistent play. Despite having an absurd amount of technical skill to go with his 6’1’’ frame, Ruiz has struggled to impose himself on games. Maybe it is a lack of creative players in the midfield but he has looked the least effective out of his team’s forwards.
Best young player: Marcos Urena, Costa Rica
The lone bright spot of Costa Rica’s performances so far has been the impressive outings by 21-year-old Urena, who has scored three goals for the team so far. Yes, two of those came against Cuba and one was a last-ditch effort against Mexico, but the skill shown in both were impressive and points to a possible new star for Costa Rica.
Best game: Jamaica 2-0 Guatemala
Alex Labidou is the Deputy Editor of Goal.com USA. Agree or disagree with the story above? Give him a shout @sportslab on Twitter.
CONCACAF Gold Cup™ Quarterfinal Jamaica v USA, Sunday 6/19 live at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX Soccer! For a complete match schedule, click here