The best part about predicting tournament games, at least in my opinion, is then rooting against those predictions and watching the favorites get upset.
I hoped that Group C would deliver pure chaos in my primer before the tournament and it did not disappoint, with Curacao’s last gasp equalizer and subsequent help enough to get them into the knockout stages in a wild finish.
Haiti stunned Costa Rica late to see them top Group B and send Los Ticos into a match up with Mexico. Debutantes Bermuda and Guyana had some impressive showings as did our favorite non-FIFA team Martinique despite not advancing into the knockout stages.
Can the knockout stages provide as much excitement and drama as the group games did? We’ll soon find out later tonight, but first, we go top to bottom - 1 through 16 - and rate everyone at the Gold Cup so far.
(1) Mexico (3W-0L-0D, 9 pts, +10 GD, 1st Group A, vs CRC in QF)
El Tri was the best team in the region coming into the tournament and there’s no reason to think they still aren’t on the way to another final appearance. Drawing Costa Rica as a second place team gives them the hardest matchup (on paper) in the quarterfinal but that shouldn’t be an issue the way Tata Martino’s team has been playing.
(2) United States (3-0-0, 9 pts, +11 GD, 1st Group D, vs CUW)
The USA’s second string closed out an undefeated run in the group stages and posted the American’s third shutout of the tournament. Gregg Berhalter passed the group stage with flying colors and will likely pass the quarterfinal test against Curacao, but the real test will be the semis.
(3) Haiti (3-0-0, 9 pts, 1st Group B, +4 GD vs CAN)
I think it was reasonable to think Haiti could make it out of their group, but to win it undefeated with a late goal against Costa Rica was really impressive. This is a young team with some legitimate talent including New England Revolution homegrown midfielder Zachary Herivaux, and it’s on the rise at the perfect time - right at the beginning of a World Cup cycle.
(4) Canada (2-1-0, 6 pts, 2nd Group A, +9 GD vs HAI)
Oh Canada, it’s nice to see you again. Another young team on the rise, Canada’s young stars are scoring goals in bunches, which is something a few years ago this team couldn’t do at all. It’s nice to have all three North American teams good at soccer again, and I this generation of Canucks makes a couple of World Cups, aside from the one they’re hosting in seven years.
(5) Curacao (1-1-1, 4 pts, 0 GD, 2nd Group C, vs USA)
I want to put them higher, but that would be gross self-promotion. I’ve liked this team for a few years now and they’ve turned a solid Nations League qualification campaign into their first trip to the Gold Cup knockout stages. Regardless of the result against the USA, I hope Curacao goes out and has fun and tries stuff. This team will be back here again, enjoy the first one.
(6) Panama (2-1-0, 6 pts, +3 GD, 2nd Group D, vs JAM)
This feels like the right spot for Los Canaleros, lurking right behind the regional powers waiting to strike if the top teams aren’t prepared. Panama and the US didn’t really show their hands in the group stage, and I think we’ll see a rematch in the semis that will be a far more entertaining and exciting matchup than the final group match.
(7) Martinique (1-2-0, 3 pts, -2 GD, 3rd Group A, Eliminated)
We’re starting a petition to put Martinique on the FIFA list so we can all see Kevin Parsemain hit wicked good worldie free kicks like this in WCQ:
Martinique needed a win over Mexico and a ton of help to make the quarters. It was very unlikely to happen, but this team still proceeded to give El Tri everything they can handle in a 3-2 loss. If this was a full time FIFA team, they’d be Top 10 in the region in my opinion and should be a darkhorse in the Nations League in the fall.
(8) Bermuda (1-2-0, 3 pts, 0 GD, 3rd Group B, Eliminated)
Much like Curacao in 2017, this is a Bermuda side that should be able to ride this experience into bigger and better things. They’ll get to play some A flight Nations Leagues games in a few months and already have their first Gold Cup win under their belts.
(9) Costa Rica (2-1-0, 6 pts, +4 GD, 2nd Group B, vs MEX)
Costa Rica has made things very difficult for themselves, laboring to close out games against Bermuda and Haiti cost them dearly as they draw Mexico in the quarters. There is something about Los Ticos in this tournament that continues to befuddle me and this year is no exception.
(10) Jamaica (1-0-2, 5 pts, +1 GD, 1st Group C, vs PAN)
Look, I know Jamaica won their group and played very well at home against Honduras. But the final two games against El Salvador and Curacao were as lackluster as you could get offensively: 6 shots on target combined. They certainly can beat Panama and get back into the semis, but only if they find the form they had at home to start the tournament.
(11) El Salvador (1-1-1, 4 pts, -3 GD, 3rd Group C, Eliminated)
I am very disappointed to put El Salvador this low, they had everything to play for against Honduras including a chance to win Group C and instead got shelled and lost out on the quarters on goal difference despite beating Curacao in the group stages.
(12) Guyana (0-2-1, 1 pt, -6 GD, 3rd Group D, Eliminated)
Not a bad first trip to the Gold Cup for the Golden Jaguars, grabbing a deserved point against T&T to close things out. This is a national team that just needs to play more games, six years ago this team wasn’t playing at all, and Nations League matches will help. Neil Danns is good at soccer too, if playing in England’s lower divisions doesn’t work out, I hope he gets a look in MLS or USL.
(13) Trinidad and Tobago (0-2-1, 1 pt, -8 GD, 4th Group D, Eliminated)
A disappointing tournament for T&T, finishing last in the group with only one goal to show for the campaign. Kevin Molino’s goal might have ended a long scoring drought for his national team, but there’s a lot of work to do or this team could drop out of the Nations League A flight.
(14) Honduras (1-0-2, 3 pts, +2 GD, 4th Group C, Eliminated)
Demolishing El Salvador doesn’t salvage a tournament where the seeded team got eliminated after two games. Yes, I know Honduras got hosed and played Jamaica in a true road game, but this team is still too talented to miss the quarterfinals. Their Nations League group with T&T and Martinique is wide open this fall in my opinion, unless Honduras turns it around quickly.
(15) Nicaragua (0-3-0, 0 pts, -8 GD, 4th Group B, Eliminated)
Another middling CONCACAF team that I hope benefits from the expanded tournament and Nations League, Nicaragua is still looking for their first modern Gold Cup point and have a -22 GD in the three tournaments they have played in. They’re still far away from competing with the top of the region but they have some solid players at the top of their roster.
(16) Cuba (0-3-0, 0 pts, -17 GD, 4th Group A, Eliminated)
Cuba has the talent to be one of the top teams of the region, or at least in the Caribbean, but reasons outside of soccer prevent this from happening consistently. I hope that changes, but in the short term, a tough draw in the Nations League with the US and Canada will likely seem the drop into the B flight. That might be for the best until the non-soccer related things change.