The 2017 Gold Cup is just one week away and Group C could be highly competitive, particularly in light of Mexico’s experimental roster.
Mexico is a perennial favorite to win both their group and the tournament and the latest installment is no exception. However, the lineup is an experimental one and Jamaica, El Salvador, and Curaçao could make things interesting while battling it out to escape the group. Conventional logic might cause one lean toward Jamaica as the favorite behind Mexico, but Curaçao recently knocked off the Reggae Boys 2-1 to win the Caribbean Cup in their first ever appearance.
El Salvador heads into the Gold Cup with somewhat uncertain expectations. Captain Darwin Cerén of the San Jose Earthquakes will be looking to lead a roster that plays primarily in their nation’s domestic league.
El Salvador’s most recent results were a 2-2 draw against Honduras and a 3-0 loss to Ecuador, both coming in friendlies. They have the unfortunate task of taking on Mexico in their first group game, but even a draw would be a great result to set them up for their remaining two matchups.
Player to watch: Darwin Cerén. Acquired from Orlando City in August of 2016, Cerén’s first full season at San Jose has produced 13 appearances. While he has yet to tally a goal or assist for his new club, his experience (41 caps) and work rate in midfield for El Salvador will be key if they are to make it out of the group.
Prediction: Fourth in Group C
Mexico are still competing in Russia in the Confederations Cup, with a match against Portugal for third place looming. The roster they are bringing to the Gold Cup is young and entirely composed of Liga MX players.
While the inexperience might cause this side some difficulties early on, the Mexican Federation’s depth is always impressive. Look for Mexico to possible take a couple of games to gel as a unit but their overall quality will likely keep them as the team to beat in the group.
Player to watch: This 23-man roster is missing most of the stars we’ve come to know, but Mexico have an abundance of talent, including midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro. Pizarro is coming off back-to-back league titles with Pachuca and Chivas. The young playmaker is hopeful of a roster spot next summer in Russia and will be looking to dictate Mexico’s attack at the Gold Cup.
Prediction: First in Group C
The island nation, making their first appearance in a Gold Cup, has never been known as a football powerhouse. Nevertheless, confidence will be high heading into the Gold Cup after winning the Caribbean Cup just four days ago.
As previously noted, they beat fellow Group C member Jamaica 2-1 in the final and will be hoping to replicate that result and cause a stir against Mexico and El Salvador. A large number of their players are in Europe (primarily the Netherlands). This could equip the side well for their first time on CONCACAF’s biggest stage.
Player to watch: Leandro Bacuna. Bacuna showed promise early on in his career and made a move to English club Aston Villa in 2013. He suited up for the Dutch U21 team before making the switch to Curaçao in 2016. He has largely struggled at Villa, but he is only 25 years of age with plenty of versatility. Look for the midfielder to try to reboot his career with a good showing in the Gold Cup.
Prediction: Sneak past El Salvador into third in Group C
The Reggae Boys from Jamaica are typically a squad with plenty of speed and physicality. Their roster features a number of familiar faces, as seven players suit up for clubs in Major League Soccer.
Jamaica’s recent loss to Curaçao will have certainly provided motivation for their tie, but they will also be looking to build upon their wonderful showing in the 2015 Gold Cup when they finished second.
Player to watch: Romario Williams. Williams, on loan at Charleston from Atlanta United, has had a terrific season thus far. He has scored 13 goals and, according to Dirty South Soccer, has been involved in 44% of his team’s goals.
Prediction: Second in Group C
The 2017 Gold Cup kicks off on Friday, July 7th.