Monday, June 20, 2011

Five Things We Learned From This Round Of Gold Cup Action

1. Juan Agudelo isn't as bad as I thought he was- It's really difficult to enter a match after ten minutes, having been told that you wouldn't feature until the second half. Mentally and physically, Agudelo was not fully prepared to enter the game in place of the injured Jozy Altidore, but the young striker managed to perform, and was crucial to the United States' 2-0 victory. His lively play and hard work helped to unsettle the Jamaican midfield and defense, while more tangibly, his sharp cross midway through the second half set up Clint Dempsey for the States' second of the day. With Chris Wondolowski clearly out of favor and Jozy Altidore likely to miss the remainder of the tournament, Agudelo could have an even bigger role to play against Panama and, eventually, Mexico.

2. Mexico can be resilient too- After three easy, blow out wins over El Salvador, Costa Rica and Cuba Mexico proved that they are capable of winning the hard way as well, coming from a goal behind to win 2-1 in the Gold Cup Quarter Finals. Early on, Philadelphia Union man Carlos Ruiz gave the Guatemalans a precious lead, but second half strikes from De Negris and Chicharito earned Mexico a vital win, they will now face Honduras in Wednesday's semi final. However, the impact of that win could be more far reaching then just the guarantee of a semi final place, Mexico are likely to find it even harder in the next two rounds, so the confidence gleaned from that come back performance could be crucial.

3. You should always put away your penalties- Alvaro Saborio. Poor Alvaro Saborio. Arguably Costa Rica's best player, Saborio twice missed from the spot against Honduras, failed conversions which cost the Costa Ricans a place in the Gold Cup semis. Miss number one came in normal time, as the striker's shot was saved with fifteen minutes to go. Had Saborio scored, Costa Rica would have claimed a one goal lead heading into the match's home stretch, however, that miss coupled with both team's inability to find the net during the last forty-five minutes of action sent the game to penalties, and another Saborio disaster. Stepping up to take his kick, Saborio must have felt nervous, and it showed as his shot skidded off the crossbar, gifting Honduras an easy route to the semi finals.

4. Luis Tejada is a Panamanian legend- Luis Tejada wrote himself into the history books in 2005, when he scored a stunning overhead kick against Mexico; for most Panamanian players, that would have been the peak. However, during the 2011 Gold Cup, Tejada has done what no Panamanian footballer has ever done before, and starred at a major international tournament. His opener against the United States was vital to Panama's 2-1 win in that game, and twice he was a hero for Panama in the semi finals. After just about scrambling home a last minute equalizer against El Salvador, Tejada rounded off the night for Panama with a clinching penalty in the shoot out, a conversion which set up an enticing rematch between Panama and the United States.

5. Clint Dempsey can finish from a yard out- After that terrible, terrible miss against Guadeloupe, Clint Dempsey simply had to finish off his best chance of the day against Jamaica. Some neat play from Juan Agudelo on the wing engineered the American room to put in a cross, and the Red Bulls youngster's low, sweeping delivery was well controlled by Clint Dempsey, who rounded goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts to score. With Jamaica already down to ten men, that goal was a killer, and one that will help to restore confidence to both Fulham's Dempsey and the Red Bulls' Agudelo.

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