The Early Sub: Gold Cup Semifinals Predictions

The Quarterfinals at the Gold Cup have come and gone earlier this week, and tonight begins the Final 4 of CONCACAF’s regional tournament. Costa Rica, the United States, Mexico and Jamaica are the final teams that remain in the tournament, with each making a claim for the title. All 4 teams are, for the most part, the deserved final 4 at this edition of the World Cup. It’s been a grinding road to say the least for many of these teams as they prepare for the potential final two hurdles that this competition will give to these teams. I’ll take a look at each of the matchups and come up with what will happen exactly over the course of the weekend. With Costa Rica taking on the United States, and with Jamaica and Mexico being matched up in a rematch of the 2015 final, who will be the two to emerge? Will the United States and Mexico meet once again to proclaim supremacy over the region? Can Costa Rica or Jamaica get one up on their regional conquerors? Tell me what you think in the comment section below!

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Semifinal #1: Costa Rica vs. The United States

Clearly the more competitive of the two matches. Costa Rica and the United States share a rich rivalry, full of some of the most incredible moments in the history of CONCACAF. Who can forget the absolute farce of a performance former coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s boys put on just last November when Los Ticos ran through the Americans 4-0 in World Cup Qualifying. Who can forget the 2013 Snow Game where the United States saw off Costa Rica 1-0 in an absolute blizzard in Columbus. Both nations have reached the Quarterfinals in the World Cup when the United States achieved the feat in 1930 and 2002, and Costa Rica had their magical run in 2014 despite being draw in a group with Italy, England and Uruguay. Both are ranked in the top 25 in the FIFA Rankings which makes this Semifinal a top 25 match in the world. Costa Rica will attempt to defeat the United States in an effort to win the first Gold Cup in their history. Bruce Arena’s Americans are currently in pursuit of their 6th Gold Cup as that title would close the gap to Mexico’s Gold Cup triumphs to 1. The winner of this match will more then likely take on the Mexicans in the final as they seem all but sure to run through the Jamaicans unless the Reggae Boyz have a miracle up their sleeve. Although the United States are seen as the favorites in this match, Costa Rica have the quality to not just beat the Americans, but to put on a clinic. Costa Rica haven’t been in top form throughout their tournament, but their victory over Panama in the Quarterfinals was a difficult one. A victory that was hard fought and one where Panama could’ve gotten the upper hand just as easily as Costa Rica did. Los Ticos will need to come out tonight with more fire then they had against Panama. The Costa Ricans only advanced thanks to an unreal Anibal Godoy own goal, without that horrific mistake, Panama and Costa Rica would’ve gone to penalties with the match up for grabs. Although the United States and Panama drew earlier in the tournament, the Yanks will bring much more quality then Los Ticos’ Central American rivals. Reinforcements have been brought in for the Americans, including Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, and Jozy Altidore. Altidore in particular will be looking to find a little bit more freedom in this one, after suffering bites, scratches, titty twisters and wet willies during the El Salvador match. The Salvadorians really disgraced themselves on Wednesday with their antics against the Americans as the United States had a tough time penetrating the tactically dirty, parked bus that was the El Salvador defense. Even with this nonsense, the United States saw off El Salvador with a 2-0 victory to get to this point after topping Group B. The real note of concern for the United States going into the game is their lack of true competition thus far. An exceptionally weak Group B containing the likes of Panama, Nicaragua, and Martinique were all the hurdles that the United States had to jump through to reach the knockout stages. A childish game against the childish El Salvador players that took part in their childish antics was all that was in the way for the Americans to get to the Final Four and here we are. Costa Rica is easily their toughest test thus far, and its a stiff test. It’s an obstacle that the United States are going to have to overcome as a team. Omar Gonzalez was brutalized last November and he’ll need to be on his A-game with attacking talent like Joel Campbell, Bryan Ruiz and Michael Urena, and Rodney Wallace coming at him. But Gonzalez is under the stewardship of his former club manager Bruce Arena (whilst at LA Galaxy), and Arena will have Gonzalez and the rest of the lineup tactically prepared for this one. United States 2 Costa Rica 1

MEX-JAM

Semifinal #2: Jamaica v. Mexico

This one is probably the more predictable of the two matchups, but you shouldn’t count the Reggae Boyz out just yet. The Jamaicans will be looking to seize their moment of glory this time after their defeat to Mexico in the 2015 Gold Cup Final. A 2nd consecutive elimination from the Gold Cup with Mexico having their hands on the sword, cannot be an option for the Caribbean nation. Jamaica have never won the Gold Cup, and 2015 was the closest they’ve ever gotten. The Reggae Boyz want more this time, they got so close and just fell short. Darren Mattocks has been leading the line all tournament and has been the Jamaicans largest attacking threat. He’s the player that the Mexican defense will be centering their focus around. Jamaica have been a tale of two teams throughout their run to the Semifinals. Theres the side that sure topped Curacao but had an unbelievably flat way of doing it. Then there’s the team that’s capable of going toe to toe and drawing 1-1 with the best team in the tournament. This team was only able to lick out a 1-1 draw against El Salvador, but tamed the youthful, attacking beast, that is Canada. They’ll need the latter if they’ll want to get through Mexico, who’ll surely bring more intensity to the match then their group stage meeting. Still without their head coach Juan Carlos Osorio, El Tri are two victories away from achieving their 8th Gold Cup. Osorio is still suspended for another two matches by FIFA due to his behavior at the Confederations Cup in Russia. It hasn’t been all that much of a problem for the Mexicans, who have won every game they’ve played at this Gold Cup with the exception of the earlier Jamaica game. They’ve scored in every match thus far as well and has posted two consecutive clean sheets against the likes of Curacao and against Honduras in the Quarterfinals. Mexico have undisputedly been the best team in the tournament, playing comfortably ahead for a majority of the time in each their games. They don’t tend to drop out in Semifinals either, with only 5 previous Finals in 13 Gold Cups, not having Mexico as one of the finalists. The almost total domestic based roster has had it’s fair share of starring players such as Queretaro striker Angel Sepulveda and Tigres midfielder Jesus Duenas. The only player not based in Mexico on the roster is starting striker, “Cubo” Torres of the Houston Dynamo. Cubo has been searching for his moment to shine for La Selecion Nacional but has yet to be that difference that Mexico had made him out to be. His success with the Houston Dynamo this season has been evident with his team leading 12 goals in 16 starts. He’s a promising player for El Tri and he’ll be key to Mexico winning the Gold Cup here. His breakout could happen tomorrow night in their Semifinal and I think he’ll net two goals if he’s given the start. Mexico 3 Jamaica 0

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