2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup: Group B Preview

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By JACK HAZZARD

Gold Cup logoThe United States was drawn into what should be a comfortable first-round group in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which includes Panama, Nicaragua, and Martinique. Coach Bruce Arena‘s team should have few problems advancing to the next round..

Although the United States is bound to advance, there is still an opportunity for two other teams to move onto the knockout stage. In the Gold Cup, the top two teams from each group advance and the best two third-place teams also move on.

United States

FIFA World Ranking: 35

Players to Watch: Dom Dwyer, Kellyn Acosta, Matt Miazga

Manager: Bruce Arena

To some, the U.S. men’s national team is taking its B team to the Gold Cup. With a squad loaded with MLS players instead of those based in Europe, some fans may be scratching their heads. The reason for players like Christian Pulisic, John Brooks and others being left off the roster are a combination of rest for the weary, the start of club training camps and Arena’s desire for a deep dive into his player pool. Nevertheless, Arena has put together a strong roster. After seeing the team cruise past Ghana over the weekend, the U.S. has to be considered one of the favorites. It will want to rebound after 2015’s poor showing, where it finished fourth under Jurgen Klinsmann.

Panama

FIFA World Ranking: 52

Players to Watch: Gabriel Gómez, Armando Cooper, Anibal Godoy

Manager: Hernán Dário Gómez

Panama is the dark horse of every CONCACAF tournament. In the 2015 Gold Cup, Panama finished third after defeating the U.S. in the consolation match. The roster primarily includes domestic and MLS players. A notable standout is Gabriel Gómez, who is the most capped player on the team with 132. Two MLS veterans — Armando Cooper and Anibal Godoy — will bring a tough attitude to the team.

Martinique

Fifa World Ranking: N/A

Players to Watch: Jordy Delem, Jean-Sylvain Babin, Kevin Theophile-Catherine, Kevin Parsemain

Manager: Louis Marianne

Like French Guiana, Martinique is not a member of FIFA. Instead, the Caribbean country’s soccer is overseen by the French Football Federation. Martinque’s last appearance in the Gold Cup was in 2013 where it failed to make it out of the group stage. Martinique’s highest finish was in 2002 when it reached the quarterfinals but lost to Canada on penalty kicks. The country’s star and top scorer is Kevin Parsemain, who has scored 27 goals in 43 matches for his country and has spent time with the Seattle Sounders.

Nicaragua

Fifa World Ranking: 105

Players to Watch: Juan Barrera, Josué Quijano, Daniel Cadena

Manager: Henry Duarte

Nicaragua has a chance to make history. Having never made it to the group stage of the Gold Cup, this year could be a first. Nicaragua’s last visit to the Gold Cup was in 2009, where it was unable to register a point and was knocked out in the group stage. It is led by Josué Quijano, 26, who has 45 caps for his country. Nicaragua’s roster leans heavily on players from Real Esteli FC.

Schedule

  • U.S. vs. Panama – July 8 (4:30 p.m.) at Nissan Stadium, Nashville
  • Martinique vs. Nicaragua – July 8 (7 p.m. at Nissan Stadium, Nashville
  • Panama vs. Nicaragua – July 12 (6:30 p.m.) at Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.
  • U.S. vs. Martinique – July 12 (8:30 p.m. ) at Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.
  • Panama vs. Martinique – July 15 (4:30 p.m.) at FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland
  • Nicaragua vs.U.S. – July 15 (7 p.m.) at FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland

*All times Eastern