From Raul Jimenez to Pulisic - Goal's U.S., Mexico & North America award winners for 2019

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Raul Jimenez Christian Pulisic
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Goal looks at the best and worst from men's soccer in the region this year including Mexico's Gold Cup stars and Honduras' roller-coaster season

  1. Best Player - Raul Jimenez, Mexico
    FREDERIC J. BROWN

    Best Player - Raul Jimenez, Mexico

    What a year for Raul Jimenez. He scored eight goals for Mexico, including five during the Gold Cup when he helped lead El Tri to the regional title.

    With his club, he's been unstoppable as well, helping Wolves push into the knockout stages of the Europa League and also playing a big role in upsets over teams like Manchester City.

    With eight goals in Premier League play, Jimenez sits just outside the top 10 in the Premier League. Combine his nine Europa League goals, though, and you'll begin to understand why he was the most important Concacaf player in Europe this season and is Mexico's No. 9 for the foreseeable future.

  2. Coach of the Year - Marc Collat, Haiti
    Frederic J. Brown

    Coach of the Year - Marc Collat, Haiti

    Marc Collat's Haiti ended the year on a bitter note, getting relegated from its Concacaf Nations League group. Yet, you have to understand the challenges with which Collat is working.

    Haiti wasn't able to play its second set of CNL matches at home because of political turmoil in the country, and already the manager is pulling players from all over the globe.

    Now, the path back to the Gold Cup involves extra qualification. So why is Collat the Coach of the Year? Because in this year's Gold Cup, Haiti was the story of the tournament, getting into the semifinals and pushing eventual champion Mexico to extra time.

    They did it thanks to strong game plans from Collat and a collective mentality the coach instituted despite cultural and language barriers few other teams have to overcome.

  3. Breakout Star - Charly Rodriguez, Mexico
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    Breakout Star - Charly Rodriguez, Mexico

    Carlos Rodriguez already is such a fixture with the Mexico national team that it's difficult to remember that his debut came in this calendar year. With Hector Herrera out of a March friendly, Rodriguez stepped into the void and didn't look at all out of place in a 3-1 win against Chile. 

    His showings with Monterrey also have been quality, with the 22-year-old midfielder impressing during the Club World Cup and eventually lifting the Liga MX title with Rayados.

    Now, he's being asked questions about heading to Europe, something that would only help him become a bigger star in the region.

  4. Future star flying under the radar - Jonathan David, Canada

    Future star flying under the radar - Jonathan David, Canada

    Jonathan David was the Golden Boot winner at this summer's Gold Cup with six goals in four matches.

    He scored a dozen goals with Gent last year, a mark he's set to surpass with nine already this season. Oh, and he's 19. Why are we not talking more about this guy?

    Sure, the Gold Cup goal tally was run up thanks to a hat-trick against a hapless Cuba, but as Canada pushes to make the World Cup in 2022 before hosting four years later, we're going to be seeing David have plenty of success against more formidable teams in the very near future.

  5. Best Goalkeeper - Eloy Room, Curacao
    Jason Connolly

    Best Goalkeeper - Eloy Room, Curacao

    OK, apologies to Keylor Navas who is doing great things at the club level, but Eloy Room was there every step of the way for Curacao in a fantastic season.

    He was fantastic as Curacao won a Gold Cup match for the first time in history and again came up big as it drew Jamaica and lost just 1-0 to the United States.

    The Nations League campaign also was impressive, with Room allowing three total goals as Curacao nearly shocked the region by getting into the Final Four. They came up a goal short but remain in League A and will be featuring at the next Gold Cup.

    He also solidified his own club situation this year, moving to Columbus Crew SC and locking down a No. 1 spot in a place where it should be easier for him to be involved in the national-team picture and impress on the club level.

  6. Goal of the Year - Rogelio Funes Mori, Monterrey
    Julio Cesar Aguilar

    Goal of the Year - Rogelio Funes Mori, Monterrey

    Rogelio Funes Mori's bicycle kick didn't technically come in Concacaf play, but we make up the rules here and are still thinking about the bicycle kick, stoppage-time winner the Argentine scored to give Rayados a 2-1 victory in the first leg of the Liga MX final.

    He scored another second-half goal Sunday to help Monterrey to the title.

    Runner-up actually scored in Concacaf competition: How about Miguel Layun's picture-perfect free kick for Monterrey in the semifinal against Soprting Kansas City?

  7. Best Young Player - Christian Pulisic, United States
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    Best Young Player - Christian Pulisic, United States

    It was not a good year for men's soccer in the United States. That said, Christian Pulisic remains a very bright spot - a bright spot who has been so good for so long that it's easy to forget he's just 21.

    David, Jose Juan Macias and Nations League standouts also had great years, but they boast neither the national-team leadership or the high-level club games Pulisic does.

  8. Biggest disappointment - Costa Rica
    EZEQUIEL BECERRA/AFP/Getty Images

    Biggest disappointment - Costa Rica

    Gutsavo Matosos had Costa Rica playing decent soccer by the end of the Gold Cup, even as the Ticos lost to Mexico in the quarter-finals of the tournament. The future looked bright once again for a nation that has put itself firmly in the top three in the region during the past decade.

    Then, he decided he was too bored with his job to keep going. He returned to the club game (and later left again after some suspicious recordings of him emerged), and left Costa Rica in the lurch.

    The Ticos needed narrow wins over Curacao and Haiti to clinch their spot in June's Nations League Final Four and will have work to do to compete with Mexico in the first match.

  9. Most interesting narrative - Growth in the Caribbean
    Cooper Neill

    Most interesting narrative - Growth in the Caribbean

    Between Haiti in the Gold Cup semi-finals, Curacao falling a point short of winning its Nations League group and Bermuda winning a Gold Cup game for the first time ever, it was a strong year for Caribbean teams.

    It goes even deeper than just those highlights, though, with teams like Grenada and Jamaica earning promotion from League B and a team like Montserrat still alive to qualify for the next Gold Cup.

    Now the question is whether teams can sustain that success and if someone can use this year as a jumping-off point to earn a place in the expanded World Cup in 2026.

  10. Most promising underdog - Suriname

    Most promising underdog - Suriname

    In the same mold as Curacao, Guadeloupe or Martinique, Suriname always has seemed like a bit of a sleeping giant. Many former Netherlands internationals have roots in Suriname, but those cultural ties haven't often been leveraged.

    That's starting to change, and Suriname will play in Nations League A next go-round after topping its League B group. It also returns to the Gold Cup for the first time since before it was even called the Gold Cup.

    Europe-based attackers Ivenzo Comvalius, 22, and Gleofilo Vlijter, 20, are rising stars who will trouble defenders even as they step up a level, and the debut of Netherlands-born Nigel Hasselbaink, nephew of Chelsea legend Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink​, makes it seem likely they'll be expanding their player pool with more reinforcements who are born outside the country but would be proud to represent their homeland.

  11. Game of the Year: Haiti 3-2 Canada
    Ronald Martinez

    Game of the Year: Haiti 3-2 Canada

    Canada planned to be in the Gold Cup semi-final against Mexico, and early in its quarter-final game against Haiti in Houston, it looked like that would be no issue.

    Jonathan David scored in the 18th minute, and Lucas Cavallini doubled the lead ten minutes later. Haiti was on the ropes but wouldn't quit, with a lifeline from Duckens Nazon in the 50th minute shifting the momentum.

    Herve Bazile scored from the spot in the 70th minute, and Wilde-Donald Guerrier capped off a counter-attack in the 76th minute to give Haiti the victory and its first ever spot in the Gold Cup semi-finals.

  12. Player who needs fresh air in 2020 - Bryan Ruiz, Costa Rica
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    Player who needs fresh air in 2020 - Bryan Ruiz, Costa Rica

    Bryan Ruiz is 34, but it would be a shame if his career ended without getting one more crack at lifting a trophy with his country. That's not going to happen if he doesn't get back on the field for a club team.

    Ruiz has been with Brazilian side Santos for two years but hasn't logged minutes with the club since November 2018.

    He's still keeping himself at least somewhat fit, scoring at the Gold Cup against Mexico and popping up again in September for a friendly against Uruguay. Yet, new Costa Rica manager Ronald Gonzalez has made the understandable decision to shelve Ruiz until he's playing again. 

    Rumors have linked him with a move within Brazil or even a mutual termination of his contract, but it would be good for the region to see Ruiz bounce back. 

  13. Best decision that looked bad at the time - No VAR at Gold Cup
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    Best decision that looked bad at the time - No VAR at Gold Cup

    How conscious was the decision not to have VAR at Concacaf's marquee tournament?

    Things likely came down to concerns about equipping venues and worries referees who come from leagues where VAR is not yet in use wouldn't have time to get trained up on the technology.

    There were relatively few contentious moments, however, and with the Premier League's recent down-to-the-millimeter offside calls, revisionist history may look back at this Gold Cup as one for the purists.  

  14. Worst take - Concacaf Nations League haters
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    Worst take - Concacaf Nations League haters

    A lot of pundits decided the Concacaf Nations League was terrible before it really got going. Many were from the United States or Mexico.

    Then the USMNT went up to Toronto and lost to Canada for the first time since 1985 and had to get a result on the final day of CNL play to get into the CNL semifinals.

    Mexico trailed at home against Bermuda during the same window, needing Raul Jimenez to come off the bench to secure a 2-1 win against the Caribbean squad.

    Of course, the CNL is not for the giants, it's for the minnows. Countries like Suriname, the Bahamas, Montserrat, Curacao among others are already reaping the benefits of more matches - and the region will be better for it when the Gold Cup and World Cup qualification is more competitive. 

  15. Biggest potential for bounce back - Honduras
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    Biggest potential for bounce back - Honduras

    Honduras failed to advance from the Gold Cup group in which it was the seeded team, losing to Jamaica and Curacao to crash out of Group B.

    It later smashed El Salvador and rolled through its Concacaf Nations League group, albiet the easiest one in League A, with a three wins and a draw. Now, Honduras is set to play European opposition in the March friendly window to prepare for the summer Final Four.

    Los Catrachos have talent in their ranks, but Fabian Coito hasn't been able to get the most out of it. Leaving the Uruguayan in charge despite the Gold Cup failure, however, may prove to be a savvy move by directors, giving Honduras continuity during a cycle in which they'll need to improve to get back to the World Cup.