The 2019 Gold Cup commences on Saturday, June 15th. But which MLS players are poised for a breakout? Here, MLS Multiplex offers six candidates.
The 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup has come again, and with the opening match kicking off Saturday, June 15 between Canada and Martinique at the Rose Bowl. There are plenty of talented players who will be hoping to make their name during the tournament. But which from Major League Soccer could look to breakout during this summer’s competition?
Here are six diamonds in the rough who could shine through during 2019’s iteration of the Gold Cup. They are in no specific order.
6. Jonathan Lewis – USA – Colorado Rapids
Mere months ago, the Colorado Rapids were in the doldrums of MLS. Stuck in the basement of the Western Conference, it looked like it was going to be another lost season in Commerce City. Enter manager Conor Casey and winger Jonathan Lewis. Frustrated with the lack of minutes he was getting with New York City FC, Lewis was traded to Colorado right around the time Casey was hitting his stride. Lewis fit right into his system. In four appearances with Colorado, he has scored twice and put up seven shots, three on target.
At only 22 years of age, Lewis has minimal experience at the international level, but, of course, he has made the final cut for the Gold Cup roster, a major step forward in his career. While starting in the midfield for the U.S. National Team in a Gold Cup is a tough way to make a debut, look for Lewis to reprise the super-sub role he played with NYCFC. He could become the purveyor of some late drama if he is handed the keys late in a match.
5. Samuel Piette – Canada – Montreal Impact
I know what you’re thinking. How can an MLS veteran with 40 plus caps for his country be considered a dark horse? Well, Canada must score goals, and Samuel Piette could be the one man John Herdman needs to unlock to take that next step in the tournament. Through those 41 caps for his country’s senior national team and 61 games played for Montreal in MLS, Piette has yet to score a goal. He has been the straw that stirs the drink in some of Canada’s biggest wins and has earned the respect of both the locker room and the manager, however, the fact that he has never scored is almost astounding, notwithstanding his status as a defensive midfielder.
Could this year’s Gold Cup be the year? He’s not entering the competition in great form and has only played in two of Montreal’s last four matches, but Piette knows the drill when it comes to big tournaments like this. He has already established himself as one of Canada’s most integral pieces, both on and off the pitch, but look for this year’s tournament to be the one that he uses to get off the schneid.
4. Jordy Delem – Martinique – Seattle Sounders FC
The sole carrier of the MLS flag within Martinique’s 2019 Gold Cup squad, expect Jordy Delem to be a standout on the backline for the tiny insular region of France. The name of the game with Delem is versatility. The 26-year-old has played everything from stay-at-home defender to ranging midfielder with the Sounders, acting as their Swiss Army knife in case of injury.
His crowning MLS achievement might have come against Minnesota United in 2018, in which he played as many minutes as goals he scored — one. Delem has scored five times for his country and also is no stranger to the big stage, having factored into Martinique’s 2013 Gold Cup run. While Les Matinino aren’t tabbed to make it out of their group in 2019, Delem could turn out to be their shining star.
3. Tyler Miller – USA – Los Angeles FC
To be fair, Tyler Miller will only likely get into a match if there is a significant injury to one of the more established keepers in front of him. If he does though, don’t expect there to be any drop off in talent. While Zack Steffen is as established as established gets in net for the Yanks, the second spot seems to be up for grabs between Miller and New York City FC’s Sean Johnson. Miller hasn’t donned the Stars and Stripes yet for the senior team, but he has backstopped LAFC to a league-best 37 points while only conceding 13 goals, good for second-best in the league (after Atlanta United and Brad Guzan, who was left off the Gold Cup squad).
Are Miller’s numbers inflated by the suffocating midfield and stifling defence that LAFC possesses? Potentially. He did allow five goals combined in the two games he played while with Seattle in 2016 and 2017. The rest of Miller’s body of work holds up, however, so if Steffen needs a day off or picks up a knock, expect manager Gregg Berhalter to find out what he has in Tyler Miller.
2. Zeiko Lewis – Bermuda – Charleston Battery
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Leading his country into its first-ever appearance in the Gold Cup, Zeiko Lewis is the engine that makes Bermuda go. While I am stretching my own arbitrary parameters by including a USL player, Lewis has been that good for the Battery and the Gombey Warriors alike that he deserves inclusion. What he lacks in height he makes up for in pace and energy, having scored a delightful goal in his debut for the Battery against Hartford Athletic.
Just as he leads the Battery in goals, assists, shots and chances created, he has also almost single-handedly powered Bermuda to qualification, scoring four goals en route to making national soccer history. While his team may not be pegged to go very far in the tournament, keep your eye on the 5’6″ lightning rod running tirelessly up and down the pitch. He may just surprise you.
1. Omar Browne – Panama – Montreal Impact
Through seven matches with Montreal Impact, Omar Browne has looked like a godsend. Picked up by Montreal after scoring twice against Toronto FC during his playing days with Panamanian side Independiente (after sinking Toronto, why wouldn’t Montreal want him?), he has already scored twice and assisted twice for his new club. Coming into this year’s Gold Cup, Browne has only four caps for his country, none of which came during Panama’s brief stay in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Untested on the international stage? Yes, however, if the 25-year-old maintains the form he is in currently, we could be hearing a lot more from him in the near future.