Gold Cup Experts Preview: The inside scoop from each Concacaf nation

Comments()
Elijah Nouvelage
Get up to date with perspective and insight from someone who knows each team taking part in the Concacaf championship well

When the Gold Cup comes around, there's often a simplistic question fans ask: Mexico or the United States?

While those two regional powers have won every edition save one since the tournament took its current form in 1991, there's far more to the tournament than simply a pair of North American teams. That's even more true now that the tournament has been expanded to 16 teams and the teams had to earn their spot in Concacaf Nations League qualification.

Goal reached out to experts on each team taking part in the Gold Cup and asked six questions to get a feel of what their expectations are for their team, what the controversies are that have dominated the headlines and who the big names are to watch out for during June and July.

Article continues below
Jump to Group A

Jump to Group B

Jump to Group C

Jump to Group D


Mexico


 Raul Jimenez Mexico

Expert: Salvador Perez, Correspondent, Goal Mexico

Twitter: @YoSoyChavaPerez

Who is the biggest star on the team?

Raul Jimenez. After an excellent season with Wolves in the Premier League, during which he scored 13 goals and helped the team earn a place in Europe, there's no doubt Jimenez is the man to watch. 

Who is the most important player on the team from a tactics standpoint? 

Andres Guardado. The captain makes things happen, helping both the attack and the defense as the left interior midfielder. His experience also will be invaluable with El Tri having a relatively young group in the United States.

Which key players are missing because of injury or other reason?

Carlos Vela is out because of not wanting to be called up to the national team. Miguel Layun was on the provisional roster but left to have a surgical procedure stemming from the discovery of a cancerous tumor.

Coach Tata Martino also is missing star winger Hirving Lozano because of a knee injury. Left back Jorge Sanchez had to be replaced on the roster because of an ankle issue, while center back Hector Moreno and midfielder Edson Alvarez are still on the squad but won't play in the first several games.

Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez is out because of the birth of his first child. Midfielder Hector Herrera requested not to be called up as he looks to recover after a long season with Porto and finalize a transfer to Atletico Madrid. His club teammate Jesus "Tecatito" Corona was not called up as part of an ongoing dispute with Martino. Tigres winger Javier Aquino also reportedly turned down a call-up.

What are the expectations for the team in the Gold Cup?

To be the champion, to keep up the good rhythm that Gerardo Martino's process has started with and to put themselves on the path toward a perfect Concacaf World Cup qualification cycle ahead of Qatar 2022.

Are there any controversies surrounding the team?

The absences of national team players for different factors (see above), many of whom have put other interests ahead of representing their country or not feeling a certain identification or belonging with their national team.

What would success be for this team?

To be champion. That's it. Mexico has no option other than winning the title. 


Canada


Alphonso Davies Canada

Expert: Rudi Schuller, Editor, Sporting News Canada. Host, Canada FC on Sirius XM.

Twitter: @RudiSchuller

Who is the biggest star on the team?

Alphonso Davies has become the face of the team even if he's not quite yet the most important Canada player. The teenager broke out in the 2017 Gold Cup, becoming the first player born in the 2000s to score in a major international tournament en route to a share of the Golden Boot at just 16 years old. Since then Davies' stock has skyrocketed, leading to his transfer to Bayern Munich (garnering the largest fee in Canadian history) and his assuming the mantle of Canada's Next Great Hope.

Look for Davies to use his blistering pace to burn defenders down the left flank for the Canadians this summer.

Who is the most important player on the team from a tactics standpoint? 

With head coach John Herdman rightly building his squad around the plethora of attacking options in Canada's ranks, a steady, experienced hand will be invaluable. Captain Scott Arfield, who is coming off a stellar campaign in Scotland with Rangers, will be the one who dictates the play from his spot in central midfield, and his penchant for jumping into the attack provides another variable that opposing defenses need to account for.

Arfield's well-rounded abilities compliment the rest of the squad, and his consistency is something the young players on the team can strive to emulate.

Which key players are missing because of injury or other reason?

Most of Herdman's call-ups for this tournament are the best that Canada has to offer, although midfielder Stephen Eustaquio would've definitely been included had he not suffered an ACL injury in his debut game with Mexican side Cruz Azul in January.

In addition to Eustaquio, central defender Manjrekar James would have been a shoo-in for Canada's 23-man roster if not for a knock he picked up with club side FC Midtjylland.

What are the expectations for the team in the Gold Cup?

Canada surprised many with a run to the quarterfinals of the 2017 Gold Cup, as most looked at the team as in full-on rebuilding mode. But a breakout performance from Davies, and superb play from the likes of Lucas Cavallini and Mark-Anthony Kaye propelled the Canadians out of the group stage for the first time since 2009.

With more talented youngsters joining the fray, and several of the team's key pieces enjoying good form with their clubs, Canada is expected to replicate its quarterfinal showing at the bare minimum. In reality, expectations for Herdman's men are higher, with a spot in the semifinals considered a reasonable goal for the rising nation.

Are there any controversies surrounding the team?

With the team's increase in notoriety, fans have been clamoring to see the players in action ahead of the Gold Cup. Despite a commitment from the coach to play more friendlies, the Canadians played just one unofficial training match less than a week ahead of their first game of the tournament, and have competed just once in an official match in 2019. 

It's a strange situation stemming from before Herdman's time in charge, but the new boss' tenure has seen Canada's number of exhibition matches dry up even more, leading some fans to wonder whether the team will be adequately prepared.

What would success be for this team?

As noted above, the Canadians will consider a spot in the knockout round a success, but ultimately they are gunning to win the whole thing. Realistically, a positive result against Mexico (whether it's a draw or win) would be a pleasant surprise, but overall the goal is to show the rest of the region that Canada can compete with its squad of young up-and-comers.


Cuba


Expert: Mario Lara, Proprietor of El Nuevo Blog del Futbol Cubano. Coach of Fortuna SC, club team based in Miami comprised largely of Cuban players, including ex-national team members.

Club's Facebook: Fortuna SC

Who is the biggest star on the team?

Well, really, the most important player would be Yordan Santa Cruz right now, but he didn't travel. For those who are present right now? Without a doubt we have players like (midfielders) Andy Baquero and Daniel Luiz Saez. I think they're the most important players to the team right now. Technically, the ball has to touch Baquero's feet. He's a really technical and creative player. He profiles as an 8 but can play as a playmaker. He's played as a 10.

Who is the most important player on the team from a tactics standpoint? 

It's a bit tough to say, because we're still trying to figure out what the national team coach is getting at. He played with a 4-3-3 during the Nations League qualification with Daniel Luis Saez in charge of winning the ball back, playing as a 5 and associating with two midfielders, Baquero and Aricheel Hernandez.

In the last few preparation matches against the Dominican Republic, he changed the whole tactical scheme and Saez played as one of the central defender. That left a big hole in the midfield with nobody able to win the ball. He used a player named Luismel Morris, who is a bit more of an attacking player. He didn't win the ball back as much and he had problems keeping the form of the team.

Which key players are missing because of injury or other reason?

There's Yordan Santa Cruz, who the United States didn't give a visa to come to this tournament. There's Onel Hernandez, which is definitely the biggest one. He's the Cuban player in the best form right now. He just was promoted to the Premier League with Norwich City. You also have the case of Christian Joel Sanchez, a goalkeeper with Sporting Gijon who just made his debut in the second division as well. Carlos Vazquez, center back for Alcorcon. Marcel Hernandez, who was just named best foreign player in the Costa Rican league with 23 goals this season.

We've also got Oswaldo Alonso in MLS, Jose Luis Corrales, also in MLS. Alonso, it's well-known that he's not called because he left several years ago. Corrales didn't. He got his paperwork to play in the United States but hasn't been included in the national. There's Ariel Martinez, Dario Suarez, Arturo Diz Pe, Frank Lopez who plays with LA Galaxy 2. Arturo Diez Pe who plays with Portland's second team and then Ariel Martinez and Dario Suarez who play with Miami FC.

You also have Cesar Munder, a young guy who plays with Universidad Catolica in Chile who now could play for Chile's U-20, they want to include him for the next game in South America. Samuel Camacho, who plays in the first division in Finland.

Are there any controversies surrounding the team?

Right now the big controversy is the inclusion of these players playing abroad. All the Cuban fans are asking those players I mentioned be included. The whole country is frustrated with this and wants them to be brought in to play with the national team because it definitely would raise the level.

I also know that the team still hasn't gotten their uniforms, just 24 hours before their debut. There are the things that happen, like when they take the players' passports. This year they're also forbidding players to go shopping or leave the hotel. They're going to be watching. They used to be able to leave in a group. This year they're not even letting them do that. They're taking their cell phones, as well, so they can't have contact and they're also saying maybe they're going to restrict internet access.

What would success be for this team?

I think getting to the next round would be the pinnacle. We know the situation against Mexico. We're expecting a win from the Mexicans. The best hope is to be able to beat Martinique and play a good game against Canada. Cuban teams have a history of playing well against Canada. We know Canada has progressed a lot and in the Gold Cup we've got mixed results against them. 


Martinique


Who is the biggest star on the team?

Kevin Parsemain is the all-time leading scorer and probably the biggest name on the squad. The former Seattle Sounders forward, now with Golden Lion, is Martinique's all-time leading scorer with 34 goals over 52 caps.

Who is the most important player on the team from a tactics standpoint? 

While Parsemain is a familiar name to fans and still is rolling along, it's been Kevin Fortune putting in most of the work for the attack lately. He scored 11 goals for Troyes in Ligue 2 in the past season and has looked like the most dangerous player on the squad in Martinique's warm-up matches.

Which key players are missing because of injury or other reason?

Wesley Jobello has been replaced on the squad by Gregory Enelda. Jobello recently completed a move from Ajaccio to Coventry City. 

Gregoire Defrel, who scored 11 goals for Sampdoria last season, was on the preliminary squad but was unable to join the final list. 

What are the expectations for the team in the Gold Cup?

Martinique landed in League A after getting through Nations League qualification unscathed. However, only two teams that reached the Gold Cup had a worse goal difference. Unless Fortune and Parsemain can get in gear, it's going to be difficult for the team to get out of the group.

What would success be for this team?

Getting out of a group that includes Mexico and Canada would be an enormous success and would match the best-ever finish for Les Matinino. Despite strong showings during Nations League qualification, achieving that mark won't be easy. 

-Jon Arnold


Costa Rica


Joel Campbell Costa Rica

Expert: Cristian Brenes, Reporter at Costa Rica's La Nacion

Twitter: @CristianB_LN

Who is the biggest star on the team?

Without any doubt, Joel Campbell is the star of Costa Rica with the absence of Keylor Navas. Campbell comes in with a lot of regular minutes after leaving Italian football and joining Leon. With the Mexican team, he was critical on the wing, playing in 13 matches and helping to take the club to the final. I should add, it was his second most-active semester in his career in terms of participation.

Who is the most important player on the team from a tactics standpoint? 

Celso Borges is the player called upon to pull the strings of the national team from his position as central midfielder. He's the player who has to help get out of the back, set the rhythm, connect and start the play. That's due in part to the fact that the captain, Bryan Ruiz, who was the brain of La Tricolor comes in with just 103 minutes played in all of 2019 and hasn't played a single game with Santos so far this year.

Which key players are missing because of injury or other reason?

The biggest absence is that of Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who declined to attend so he could resolve his future. However, before the competition, Luis Diaz, a 20-year-old attacking midfielder, was injured. 

Meanwhile, four days before the start of the tournament, Jimmy Marin abandoned La Sele to sign in Israel and he left the Costa Rican squad with 22 players. Marin, who is 21, is one of the stars of this 'replacement' generation and profiled as a starter with Gustavo Matosas.

What are the expectations for the team in the Gold Cup?

Costa Rica never has won the Gold Cup, thus the top expectation is to conquer all in the 2019 edition. Beyond the fact that the national team is in a time of renovation, the players and staff have stressed over and over again that the goal is to win the title.

Are there any controversies surrounding the team?

Unfortunately for the Costa Rica national team, just four days before the tournament started Jimmy Marin abandoned the team to sign in Israel. The 21-year-old midfielder didn't go to training with his new club asking that he travel and sign, and he made the decision not to continue on with the Tricolor. This generated a big scandal, since Costa Rica now can't substitute him and will have to play the Cup with 22 players, not 23.

Adding onto that, there's the controversial permission given to Keylor Navas not to attend the competition, allowing him to resolve his situation with Real Madrid, something that didn't go down well at the local level. 

What would success be for this team?

Judging by the words of the national team players and the coaching staff, where they'd stated they're going to win the Gold Cup, the only result that would be considered a success would be to win the tournament. With anything else, the top goal wouldn't be achieved.

The top spot in Group B is very achievable for the Ticos. They should finish first, advance to the quarterfinals and come fact-to-face with Mexico (most likely) in the semifinals. From there, you have the biggest potential stumbling blocks, but in the Costa Rican federation they believe they can achieve it.


Bermuda


Expert: Stephen Wright, Sports Editor, Royal Gazette Bermuda.

Twitter: @Sjlwright

Who is the biggest star on the team?

Nahki Wells is undoubtedly Bermuda's biggest star and one of only five Bermudian players to have graced the top flight of English football. He will be absolutely crucial to the island's hopes of advancing from the group

Who is the most important player on the team from a tactics standpoint?

Milan Butterfield might be a relative newcomer to the squad, but the rangy midfielder offers something different with his composure on the ball and extra physicality. The 19-year-old will likely sit in front of the back four, not only offering protection but collecting passes from his defenders and feeding the team's attacking outlets such as Reggie Lambe and Willie Clemons.

Butterfield impressed in Bermuda's two warm-up games against Sao Miguel Azores and Guyana and will be hoping to start against Haiti.

Which key players are missing because of injury or other reason?

The only injury concerns are defender Donte Brangman, who picked up a leg injury against Guyana last week, while midfielder Tre Ming has only recently returned to action after undergoing knee surgery in March. All of Bermuda's leading lights boarded the plane.

What are the expectations for the team in the Gold Cup?

The team are unburdened by expectations. They know full well they are punching above their weight as an island with a tiny population of 65,000. However, there is a belief within the camp that the quarterfinals could be a possibility. A positive result against Haiti will be crucial to those lofty ambitions, however.

Are there any controversies surrounding the team?

There are no real controversies. Midfielder Reggie Lambe was replaced as captain after the team's 3-1 defeat away to Aruba in the Concacaf Nations League qualifying opener by defender Dante Leverock. Lambe did express his disappointment with the decision at the time but there was absolutely no fallout from coach Kyle Lightbourne's call.

This is a very tight group of players, many of whom have played together since their early teens.

What would success be for this team?

A victory in one of their three group games, most likely in their final game against Nicaragua, would be considered a success. After all, Bermuda have made history by qualifying for the Gold Cup.


Haiti


Expert: Benson Petit-ClairHaiti-Tempo

Twitter: @Haititempo

Who is the biggest star on the team?

Without any doubt, Duckens Nazon is the biggest star on this squad. He emerged during the 2015 Gold Cup thanks to a pair of goals in the group stage against Panama and Honduras. Since then, he has been the star of the national team. During the qualifying stage for the Gold Cup and the CONCACAF Nations League, he led the team with six goals, the most goals scored by anyone in the qualifiers. 

Who is the most important player on the team from a tactics standpoint?

This is a difficult question since this is mostly a young team, but I would say Nazon. He is undoubtedly one of the most skillful players in the team. He can create chances for himself and others. He is very dangerous when he has the ball at his feet. If you haven’t seen the goal he scored against Cuba last March in the qualifying rounds of the Nations League, I would advise watching it a few times.

Which key players are missing because of injury or other reason?

Herve Bazile won’t play today (against Bermuda) because of an injury suffered during a scrimmage game against Guyana this past week. It’s quite unfortunate since it would have been his first game with Haiti in a competition after playing in three friendlies during which he impressed many. The fans were looking forward to seeing him Sunday, but they will have to wait until the next matches against Nicaragua or Costa Rica.

Sony Mustivar, who played for a while with Sporting KC, also is out after suffering an injury in practice last week in Chile. He is out of the tournament. He would have played a vital role in the midfield. Kevin Lafrance is a key starter who is also out of the tournament for unclear reasons. Also, Romain Genevois of SM Caen in France declined the invite to the national team after spending the the bulk of the season injured.

What are the expectations for the team in the Gold Cup?

The expectation is to go as far as possible. In 2015 the team reached the quarterfinals against Jamaica in a closely contested match. This time around the goal is to get past the quarters.

Are there any controversies surrounding the team?

No controversies whatsoever this time around.

What would success be for this team?

Being one of the last four teams standing.


Nicaragua


Nicaragua

Expert: Camilo Velasquez, FutbolNica

Twitter: @FutbolNica, @CamiloFutNica

Who is the biggest star on the team?

The big star continues to be Juan Barrera, the captain and all-time leading scorer of the national team. But defender Luis Fernando Copete and forward Byron Bonilla also are important.

Who is the most important player on the team from a tactics standpoint?

Strategically, Barrera is the most important player. He has scored 15 goals and has six assists of the total 56 goals Nicaragua has scored since his arrival.

Which key players are missing because of injury or other reason?

The biggest absence is Jaime Moreno, the forward from Deportivo Lara. (Moreno has a muscle injury in his left leg that will cause him to miss the tournament.)

What are the expectations for the team in the Gold Cup?

The hope is the national team gets its first victory in the Gold Cup. Particularly, I don't think it will qualify.

Are there any controversies surrounding the team?

Yes, there is some controversy. There is a group of people who are urging the players to publicly express themselves in favor of the fight of the people, and they're complaining that they're not doing so.

(Editor's note: This refers to the ongoing conflict in Nicaragua between protesters and the government of Daniel Ortega, in which several hundred have been killed.)

What would success be for this team?

Winning a game would be a big achievement, but getting through the group would mark a historic moment for Nicaragua.


Jamaica


Jackson Yueill Alvas Powell USA Jamaica 2019

Expert: Simon Preston, Reporter, Gleaner Group

Twitter: @SimeyP93

Who is the biggest star on the team?

When you think of a star you think of someone who carries a name that everyone is aware of and in Jamaica especially in the last four years. One name that has been the cry to have in the national team is Leon Bailey. 

Twelve goals in 34 games was a decent return in his first full season in the Bundesliga. The second season was hampered by injuries where his output dropped significantly. However it doesn't take away what he can bring to the Reggae Boyz: Pace, accuracy, versatility and creativity are just a few of many areas where he can add positively to Jamaica in the Gold Cup.

Who is the most important player on the team from a tactics standpoint? 

From a tactical standpoint it is difficult to pin point only one who is the most important because of the way Jamaica plays. Coach Whitmore strives for a solid return collectively. So players like Kevon Lambert and Michael Hector together are key in neutralizing the opposition and blocking passing lanes.

Which key players are missing because of injury or other reason?

Adrian Mariappa. He is a core player, as he has been since making his debut for Jamaica in 2012. He played a number of games for Watford this season and expressed a desire for rest and plans to be 100 percent for our World Cup Qualifying Campaign in 2020.

Corey Burke and Ravel Morrison are not included because of U.S. visa issues. 

What are the expectations for the team in the Gold Cup?

The expectations of the team is to go to the final once more and claim the crown. But, in my opinion, it will be a difficult task bearing in mind who we will have to face in the quarter finals.

If Jamaica advances from Group C, then they will face either Panama or USA in the last 8. That's right, I'm ruling out  Guyana and T&T. Panama is Jamaica's bogey team as we have only beaten them twice in 50 years and the USA will be much tougher than the fixture on June 5. So, I will accept a semifinal run but wouldn't be surprised if we bow out in the quarterfinals.

Are there any controversies surrounding the team?

There are controversies in every national team. Whether its nepotism, remuneration or otherwise there is almost always a conflict in international football. But, from a Jamaican perspective, it's just about players getting their match fees on time and not late.

What would success be for this team?

Success for this team would be to go to the final again. But, for me, the success would be to find a position and system where Leon Bailey can thrive for Jamaica for the next decade. I want us in the 2026 FIFA World Cup.


Honduras


Expert: Marco Aguilar, Reporter, Diario Diez

Twitter: @MAguilarDIEZ

Who is the biggest star on the team?

There's not a star who stands out above everyone else like there has been in previous tournaments, however Alberth Elis is the go-to guy in attack. He's joined by a young player like Michael Chirinos who has consolidated himself in Mexican soccer and has much expected of him. There also are important players like Bryan Acosta, Emilio Izaguirre and Maynor Figueroa.

Who is the most important player on the team from a tactics standpoint?

I think it's Maynor Figueroa, leader of Honduras' defensive zone and the one who puts everything in order. There also will be a lot of leadership in the midfield with Bryan Acosta, who is starting to fill that role.

Which key players are missing because of injury or other reason?

Andy Najar won't play because of injury. He was hurt in the match against Paraguay on June 5. There are others who aren't in the squad because of staff decision, including Jerry Bengtson and Roger Espinoza is out because of a personal decision. 

What are the expectations for the team in the Gold Cup?

It's a new generation, coached by a new manager Fabian Coito. There are young players with some history in the national teams. We're hoping to see the idea of how to play the manager has, since it's a bit of a trial by fire ahead of the World Cup qualification cycle.

Are there any controversies surrounding the team?

Andy Najar's injury led Fabian Coito to call-up Alejandro Reyes, Olimpia midfielder. The majority believes that midfielder Kevin Lopez of Motagua, bicampeon in Honduras and familiar in Najar's position, should have gone. Alejandro plays on the left, but beyond the controversy, it's just a small difference.

What would success be for this team?

I think that with the current group of players, getting to the quarterfinals or semifinals would be a success. 


El Salvador


Expert: Rodrigo Arias, Salvadoran football encyclopedia

Twitter: @rodro77

Who is the biggest star on the team?

Currently, it's Bangkok United forward Nelson Bonilla.

Who is the most important player on the team from a tactics standpoint?

Alianza midfielder Narciso Orellana. As the central midfielder, he provides balance in the middle of the field and starts the transiation to attack. He's also key in winning back and distributing the ball.

Which key players are missing because of injury or other reason?

Forward Fito Zelaya, goalkeeper Benji Villalobos (Editors note: El Salvador manager Carlos de los Cobos has said he won't call up players implicated in the 2013 match manipulation scandal), Denis Pineda (forward who tweeted the shrug emoji after being left off the final list).

What are the expectations for the team in the Gold Cup?

To play three even matches during the group stage.

Are there any controversies surrounding the team?

No. The controversey about Fito's absence ended last year. De Los Cobos said he wasn't calling him because he was part of the match manipulation.

What would success be for this team?

To get to the quarterfinals.


Curacao


Expert: Emmanuel Robert, an Aruba native based in the Netherlands who answered our call and knows plenty about Remko Bicentini's squad.

Twitter: @EmmaRobert01

Who is the biggest star on the team?

The biggest star on the team is goalkeeper Eloy Room. Even though he has not played regular football for PSV, he still gives Curacao security beneath the crossbar. You could see it last Gold Cup with the many saves he made.

Who is the most important player on the team from a tactics standpoint?

Cuco Martina. The Feyenoord defender has the leadership needed to put order on the pitch and also provide a level of calm. He's true leader that everyone looks up to.

Which key players are missing because of injury or other reason?

The Curacao side looked promising two months ago with the addition of Roly Bonevacia, Brandley Kuwas, and Gervane Kastaneer, which would have given them more creativity and a boost in the attack.

Unfortunately, the three of them will not be going to the Gold Cup with the team. Kuwas because he is too tired and needs vacation, Bonevacia has a new team and needs to get ready, and Kastaneer because he got injured during the Kings Cup in Thailand.

What are the expectations for the team in the Gold Cup?

My expectation for Curacao is that they will not get past the group stage. There’s a slight chance they will, as they have the experience from last Gold Cup, but with the notable absence of key players mentioned above, it will be a tough group stage for Curacao.

Are there any controversies surrounding the team?

One of the controversies, if you call it that, is how newly called players from high-level leagues are not taking the responsibility to play for their country after saying yes and giving hope to the fanbase. One good example is Kuwas. He played one or two games and then refused to play the Gold Cup.

What would success be for this team?

A great success for the Curacao side is getting at least three points in the group stage, considering that last Gold Cup they lost all 3 games, 2-0.


United States


Expert: Ives Galarcep, American Soccer Correspondent, Goal

Twitter: @SoccerByIves

Who is the biggest star on the team?

Christian Pulisic is the best player on the USMNT, and it’s not even close. He may not wind up being the team’s leading goal scorer due to being deployed in more of a playmaking role, but Pulisic will be the key to the USA’s chances of winning the tournament. Without him, this USA team would struggle to reach the semifinals.

Who is the most important player on the team from a tactics standpoint? 

Michael Bradley will be vital to Gregg Berhalter’s tactical setup thanks to his ability to connect the defense to the attack, and his passing range. 

Which key players are missing because of injury or other reason?

Tyler Adams was forced out because of a groin issue while John Brooks missed the tournament with a knee injury. Those two are the biggest losses given their importance to Gregg Berhalter’s defensive structure. DeAndre Yedlin would have been the starting right back with Adams sidelined, but he is also out due to sports hernia surgery. Duane Holmes would have factored into the midfield rotation, but was forced out by injury.

What are the expectations for the team in the Gold Cup?

Reaching the Gold Cup final is the expectation, even for a U.S. team clearly in a state of transition. Gregg Berhalter is facing some pressure after the team’s poor results in the run-up to the tournament, making anything but a final appearance feel like a disappointment in his first tournament in charge. 

Are there any controversies surrounding the team?

The return of veterans Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley and Omar Gonzalez has led to some negative reaction among some fans due to their role in the team’s failed 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, but Altidore and Bradley remain key figures in the starting lineup and will have their chance to win back some fans who still blame them for the team missing out on Russia.

What would success be for this team?

USMNT fans are desperate to see some progress under Berhalter, and some signs that his system is starting to sink in and a clear style is being developed. Winning its group with some comfortable wins would help rebuild some of the confidence lost by the pre-tournament defeats, along with a strong run in the knockout rounds.

Reaching the final is what Berhalter needs to walk away from this Gold Cup looking like he’s making progress, while a Gold Cup title would have U.S. fans feeling bullish about the future under their first-year coach.


Guyana


Expert: Santokie Nagulendran, Writer/Editor, Football Paradise

Twitter: @San_Toki_

Who is the biggest star on the team?

Neil Danns, the 36 year old veteran Bury FC midfielder is key for Guyana, consistently scoring in critical games, including the win against Belize that took Guyana to the Gold Cup. He adds an attacking threat to the team as well as an abundance of experience that adds a calmness to the team.

Who is the most important player on the team from a tactics standpoint?

Callum Harriott, a pacy winger who most recently played for Reading FC in England’s Championship will be the man that head coach Michael Johnson expects to supply crosses and leave defenders in his wake. In its recent history, Guyana has shown a tendency for defensive lapses, so the return of left back Matthew Briggs after a four year hiatus also will be priceless.

Which key players are missing because of injury or other reason?

Philadelphia Union midfielder Warren Creavalle has been ruled out of the whole tournament, which is a major blow. His quality and experience of playing on US soil would have been useful for Guyana.

What are the expectations for the team in the Gold Cup?

Making their Gold Cup debut in a very strong group, there are not high expectations for the side, especially with both of their warm-up games resulting in losses to Bermuda and Haiti, albeit with experimental lineups. However, recent UK-based recruits Callum Harriott, Anthony Jeffrey and Keanu Marsh-Brown could cause a few problems for opposition defenses in the group.

Are there any controversies surrounding the team?

A never-ending debate in Guyana has been focused on local-based players being left out in favor of overseas-based players. With only five local players selected in the 23-man Gold Cup squad, there has been dismay in some quarters at the omission of local stars Gregory Richardson and Trayon Bobb, the latter being a key player in qualifying games.

What would success be for this team?

Guyana will be targeting a win against neighbors Trinidad and Tobago, but realistically won’t be expecting any points to be gained against Panama or USA, despite the latter’s recent poor form; at home they should be too strong for an inexperienced Guyanese side. If Guyana can avoid finishing bottom of the group, then this will have been a successful tournament to build on for the future.


Trinidad and Tobago


Expert: Lasana Liburd, Writer and Editor, Wired868

Twitter: @lasanaliburd 

Who is the biggest star on the team?

The star in the team is Kevin Molino. He has 19 goals from 44 appearances as a midfielder, and that says it all. Trinidad and Tobago is so short on offensive options that Dennis Lawrence only traveled with one forward. Molino is our best finisher since Stern John.

Who is the most important player on the team from a tactics standpoint?

From a tactical standpoint, central midfielder Khaleem Hyland is key. He isn’t a regular ball winner, a playmaker or scorer, but on his day he manages to be one or even two of those things. His spirit and tenacity also are key in a team that doesn’t have many natural leaders.

Which key players are missing because of injury or other reason?

Sheldon Bateau misses out due to club commitments, and he will be missed in defense, especially as we were then hit with a few injuries and visa issues that left us short handed there.

What are the expectations for the team in the Gold Cup?

Trinidad and Tobago got to the knockout round in their last two Gold Cup appearances and anything less would be seen as a step back. Realistically, it is hard to hope for much more than that.

Are there any controversies surrounding the team?

Ask the head coach when last he was paid and he’d put on a brave face and try to change the topic. At present, the TTFA is near bankrupt and the president is facing the courts on several matters related to a lack of transparency with some action coming from his own board. The team is not totally insulated from that, although the coach does try.

Another point to note is domestic football in Trinidad ground to a halt since last December as they tried to switch to a new UEFA/Concacaf guided club format that, in their ‘infinite wisdom', they aimed to structure and kick off within six months. The ramifications of that for the coach is that the seven local-based players in his Gold Cup squad have not had a competitive game of any kind in over six months.

What would success be for this team?

I suppose I answered the question related to success already. We must get to the second round or there will be disappointment. Neither Honduras or Jamaica traditionally scare Trinidad and Tobago fans, though. So if we get that far we would be dreaming of pushing all the way to the final. But quarterfinals would be a fair placement.


Panama


 Expert: Guillermo Pineda, Reporter, MiDiarioPanama

Twitter: @BillyPinedaPA

Who is the biggest star on the team?

The biggest star, without a doubt, is Edgar Yoel Barcenas. His jump from the second division in Mexico to the second division in Spain shows the 25-year-old has a big potential. He played almost 40 matches since Russia and finally we'll see him with the Panama national team again.

Who is the most important player on the team from a tactics standpoint?

Tactically, the most important Panama player has to be Armando Cooper. With Gabriel Gomez retiring (although he is on Panama's preliminary roster) and the injury to Anibal Godoy, Cooper has an enormous responsibility in the middle of the field. His dribbling always will be there, but now more than ever he'll be responsible with the position he's going to fill in the first line of midfielders. His inconsistency at club level ended with his last year in Israel.

Which key players are missing because of injury or other reason?

The biggest absence is that of Anibal Godoy. We knew about the absences of goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, center back Felipe Boloy, midfielder Gabriel Gomez, forward Blas Perez and forward Luis Tejada. We've had to add "the Samurai" to that list, who is tipped to be the new leader of the Panamanian locker room.

What are the expectations for the team in the Gold Cup?

My expectation is to see Panama at least in the semifinals. I think it has to leave teams like Honduras and Jamaica in its path and why not beat the United States again like Julio Dely Valdes did in 2011 in Tampa. I want them to be in the final match in Chicago.

Are there any controversies surrounding the team?

Currently, there are two controversies. The first is the lack of wins for Panama since it qualified for Russia 2018. They've had 14 defeats in 21 matches, but you have to keep in mind that since Julio Dely Valdes took over Panama has two draws and two defeats, facing three contenders for the Copa America and the meeting with the Basque Country that served as a testimonial for Penedo, Baloy, Perez and Tejada.

The other is the presence of locally based players like  Francisco Palacios, Marcos Sanchez or Valentín Pimentel. The manager looked over Cesar Blackman who is in DAC of Slovakia and Alfredo Stephens in Portugal's Santa Clara.

What would success be for this team?

For the Panama national team, it would be a success if it gets back to a Gold Cup final, and if that happens it could be against Mexico for the first time. That's a totally different scenario from than the 2005 and 2013 finals.

Close