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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Three Things to Expect from the CONCACAF Gold Cup by Chris Behrens

by Chris Behrens for World Football Commentaries

1) Chicharito will be Magical:

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28:  Victor Valdes of FC Barcelona (L) punches the ball clear from Javier Hernandez of Manchester United during the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England.
Getty Images logo Getty Images.

Javier Hernandez and Victor Valdes last Saturday at Wembley.

The ‘Little Pea’ just ended a magnificent debut campaign with Manchester United, netting 20 goals in 45 appearances for the Red Devils. Despite a thoroughly disappointing end to the season, the clinical henchman will spearhead the Mexico jersey clad attack along with a not-as prolific finisher in Giovani Dos Santos, Pablo Barrera, Aldo de Nigris, or Elías Hernández. Chicharito will have to grow up quickly and El Tri may rely heavily on his pace and clever movement throughout matches. He may be a bit worn out from a grueling first season abroad, but against lesser competition, expect him to net 3+ goals even while looking a bit fatigued.

2) Carlos Bocanegra will Show his Age:

Olympique Marseille's forward Loic Remy (R) fights for the ball with St Etienne's defender Carlos Bocanegra during the French L1 football match Marseille versus Saint-Etienne on February 19, 2011 at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, southern France.
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Carlos Bocanegra of St. Etienne and Loic Remy of
Olympique Marseille last month in Ligue 1 action.

The aging USMNT backline is captained by 32-year-old former Fulham man Carlos Bocanegra, love it or hate it. His best days are sadly prominently in his rear view mirror along with a few other defensive veterans on the squad (cough cough Oguchi Onyewu and Steve Cherundolo) and those shiny new gold Maestris can't hide it.

While Bob Bradley stuck in a couple of minimally experienced defensemen, Erich Lichaj and Tim Ream, he amazingly passed on Omar Gonzalez, who many are seeing as the future of the backline. Bocanegra is beginning to show his liability to an already somewhat shaky defense, especially when Bradley slots him in as a left back. Take your USMNT victory lap now. You’ve had a great career Carlos, but it’s time for everyone to start thinking ahead before the team really suffers.

3) Costa Rica will Frighten Mexico and the USA:

FC Twente's Bryan Ruiz holds the trophy after the victory over Ajax Amsterdam  during their Dutch Cup Final soccer match in Rotterdam,  May 8, 2011.
Reuters Pictures logo Reuters Pictures.

Bryan Ruiz of FC Twente.

I would be lying if I could put any other team but Mexico and USA into the 2011 Gold Cup Final. The two sides are (on paper and in reality) superior to every opposition each will encounter until the final in Pasadena. But if any team were to knock off the two powerhouses, it’d be a country of just over 4,000,000. The firepower of the squad will likely be supplied by the irreplaceable Bryan Ruiz, who plays his club ball at newly crowned runner ups in the Eredivisie, FC Twente. A 6 foot 2 inch monster on the ball, he’s got pace and the ability to win the ball in the air. Plus he’s a solid distributor and a versatile option for the Ticos.

Costa Rica is deep in attack so expect shaky defenses to be scared. The squad will be hungry after failing to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup; Mexico will encounter the Costa Ricans in group stage; likely, the US wouldn’t have to encounter the Ticos until the final. Bob Bradley should be breathing a sigh of relief.

The Bottom Line:

The Gold Cup will bring a bit of excitement for CONCACAF as it does every two years. The US has learned its lesson and Bradley has brought on a loaded veteran squad with an interesting mix of up-and-coming talent, while Mexico still appear to be the other noteworthy team in the tournament.

The Cup will once again come down to a Mexico-USA final, with the US squeaking out a narrow victory on penalties to avenge the embarrassing 5-0 loss in the 2009 Gold Cup.

About the Author

Chris Behrens, Champions League and US Soccer correspondent and soccer seer at soccerpro.com.

Chris gets his all of his licensed soccer equipment at soccerpro.com.

Please check out SoccerProse: A soccer blog for soccer players, fans, parents and coaches.


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1 comment:

Steve Amoia said...

Chris, thank for another timely and detailed commentary.

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