ALEX KURIAL - Tuesday, July 16, 2013
The past weekend saw plenty of Gold Cup action, with several MLS players in play as the group stage draws to a close.
On Saturday Costa Rica was looking to clinch its spot in the quarterfinals with a win over Belize at the Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, UT. Forwards Jairo Arrieta from the Columbus Crew and Real Salt Lake's Alvaro Saborio were in Costa Rica's starting lineup to try and complete the task.
The game saw a much improved Belize team, but Costa Rica found some fortune to come out on top. In the 49th minute Kenny Cunningham whipped a ball from the right side of the box looking to find Saborio in the middle. The pass was broken up by defender Dalton Eiley, but the deflection took a wild bounce past diving goalie Woodrow West and into the net.
Saborio departed with a minute left to play and watched his team hold on, with Eiley's mistake the lone marker in a 1-0 Costa Rica win. Costa Rica now joins the U.S. in the quarterfinals, the Americans clinching with a 4-1 win over Cuba earlier in the day. The two 2-0 teams play Tuesday to determine the winner of Group C.
Belize and Cuba will have a lot to play for on Tuesday as well. If either of them can win by four or more goals they will oust Group A's Martinique for the second and final third place quarterfinal berth. Both games take place at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.
Group A concluded on Sunday with a pair of games at Sports Authority Field in Denver. Winless and goalless through two games, Canada faced Panama needing a victory for any chance at advancement.
Toronto FC fans may have thought they were watching their own team, with four members of the Ontario side in the Canadian starting lineup. Doneil Henry and Ashtone Morgan took the field on defense, while Kyle Bekker and Jonathan Osorio occupied midfield positions. FC Dallas forward Blas Perez started for Panama.
Like the rest of the tournament, Canada looked outclassed from the outset, and gave up the majority of chances throughout the game. D.C. United forward Kyle Porter came on in the 65th minute with Canada in desperate need of a goal, but for the third straight game they had nothing to show on the board as the game ended in a scoreless tie.
Canada is left with some soul searching to do after an especially poor tournament performance, in which they were the only team not to score a goal. Panama meanwhile had already secured advancement, but clinched Group A with the point.
The battle for second was contested between Mexico and Martinique, each with one win in their first two games. The game had no appearances by MLS players, as the lone MLS man on either roster, Portland Timbers forward Frederic Piquionne, was left out of the Martinique lineup.
Mexico went up 1-0 in the 21st minute off a rebound shot from Marco Fabian, the midfielder's third goal of the group stage. They doubled the lead in the 34th off a gorgeous 30 yard strike by Luis Montes.
Martinique would get one back before the half though, when it was ruled defender Miguel Layun hauled down Steve Gustan in the box. Kevin Parsemain stepped up and buried left side to make it 2-1 Mexico at the half.
Martinique could never find the equalizer however, and with the team in attack mode late Mexican midfielder Miguel Ponce struck a 90th minute one timer on the counter attack to seal the game and send Mexico to the quarterfinals.
Despite the loss Martinique is still in line to advance via the last remaining third place quarterfinal spot. As long as Belize or Cuba do not beat the other by four goals on Tuesday, Martinique will sneak into the next round.
Group B also concluded its action with games Monday at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston. El Salvador and Haiti started things off, El Salvador needing the full three points to move on while Haiti could settle for the tie. Sporting Kansas City and Haitian defender Mechack Jerome was the lone MLS man on the field to start the game.
El Salvador should have had a pair in the first half, but twice hit the right post with Haitian goalie Frandy Montrevil well out of position. Sporting Kansas City midfielder Peterson Joseph joined teammate Jerome in the 68th minute.
El Salvador finally broke through when Haitian midfielder Jean Alexandre was ruled to have tugged down Victor Turcios in the box, and a penalty was awarded. Rodolfo Zelaya saw his penalty saved by Montrevil, but was quick to get on the rebound and bury his third of the tournament in the 76th minute.
Zelaya's goal held up as the game winner, the 1-0 El Salvador victory ensuring them a spot in the quarterfinals, while eliminating Haiti.
The only thing left to decide now was the final order of the Group B participants, which would be settled by the game between Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad and Tobago faced the tough task of needing a win against the group's top team to advance.
Seattle Sounders midfielder Mario Martinez started for Honduras, while Vancouver Whitecaps defender Carlyle Mitchell took the field for Trinidad and Tobago.
Honduras put themselves at a first half disadvantage through a red card to Jose Velasquez for a vicious tackle from behind on Cornell Glen. With Honduras having already clinched first place in the group, Martinez got the night off early and subbed off two minutes before the half.
More rough play from Honduras in the second half would finally cost them on the board. Again Glen was taken down, this time by Orlin Peralta in the box. Stoke City forward Kenwyne Jones stepped up and buried the penalty in the 48th minute.
The Caribbean nation secured their quarterfinal spot in the 67th minute, going up 2-0 on 10 man Honduras through a strike by Kevin Molino from 14 yards out. The scoreline held up, and was good enough to see Trinidad and Tobago finish second in the group.
The one quarterfinal contest to be set so far is Mexico against Trinidad and Tobago, which will take place on Saturday from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Panama, Honduras, El Salvador, the U.S. and Costa Rica are all awaiting their opponent, while Martinique, Belize and Cuba vie for the final spot. The final picture will be clear after Group C concludes on Tuesday.