2017 Gold Cup: Jakovic and Wallace Make an Impact

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By JACK BELL

Gold Cup logoHARRISON, N.J. — Two players who ply their trade in New York demonstrated their value to their national teams as the CONCACAF Gold Cup kicked off Friday night before a capacity crowd at Red Bull Arena.

In the first match of the sold-out doubleheader, New York Cosmos defender Dejan Jakovic scored the opening goal in Canada’s 4-2 win over French Guiana.

In the nightcap, New York City FC midfielder Rodney Wallace provided the perfect cross for the game’s only goal as Costa Rica nipped rival Honduras, 1-0.

Canada opened the scoring in the 28th minute when the England-based midfielder Scott Arfield sent in a free kick from the right side. Goalkeeper Donovan Leon swatted the ball away but it struck Jakovic’s body and deflected into the goal. The goal snapped a 596-minute Gold Cup scoreless streak for Canada.

Jakovic, 31, signed with the Cosmos in March after playing for Shimizu S-Pulse in Japan’s J-League. So far during the North American Soccer League’s Spring Season he has started nine matches for the defending league champions. Jakovic gives the club experience and initiative on the back line, where he has completed 86.2 percent of his passes including 73.3 percent of his long passes.

Costa Rica displayed why some observes believe the Ticos can contend for the Gold Cup title. While the United States and Mexico have sent experimental rosters to the tournament, Costa Rica has dispatched its A team — and it showed in a spirited match.

Though Costa Rica carried much of the play on offense, it did not break through with the eventual game-winner until late in the first half when defender Giancarlo González sent a looping down the left flank that Wallace, 29, tracked down before it went over the end line. Wallace, a national team veteran, got his proficient left foot around the ball and sent a cross to Marco Ureña, who volleyed a shot past goalkeeper Luis López from five yards out.

Wallace, signed by NYCFC after a year in Portugal, has emerged as a favorite of Coach Patrick Vieira. Wallace has started 16 games this season, scoring 4 goals and dealing 5 assists.