Cuba Rising, Martinique Falling, Haiti Crushed
Three goals from Ariel Martinez helped his country through to the quarterfinals of the Gold Cup. Those going home early include two countries that played well but perhaps got a little unlucky.
July 18, 2013
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Gold Cup Recap
The Gold Cup quarterfinals are set, but it took some work to get there. Mexico was able to qualify in Group A thanks to a 3-1 victory against Martinique. That third goal, a stoppage time insurance strike from Miguel Ponce was more significant than it might’ve appeared. It put Les Matinino at a negative two goal difference. On the final day of the group stage, Cuba took on Belize with both teams knowing they could go through with a 4-0. Cuba jumped out in front through Ariel Martinez in the 38th minute and took that advantage into the break. Martinez added another midway though the second, but the real turning point was in the 81st minute when Ian Gaynair, the Belizean who has made the most headlines in the tournament, got his second yellow card and was sent off. From there, Martinez completed his hat trick and Yenir Marquez, the 34-year-old captain of the Lions, put them through in the final minute.
If there’s reason for sympathy for Martinique, bounced from the tournament despite some excellent performances, and there is, there’s even more reason to spare a thought for Haiti. They played exhilarating soccer in their first Group B match, though they fell to Honduras, and got all three points against Trinidad and Tobago. That left Les Grenadiers with a good shot at getting through if they could knock off El Salvador in the third group match.
The game was an even one with both teams attacking well. Initially, the Central Americans had no luck with Rodolfo "Fito" Zelaya hitting the post not once but twice, but the tides would turn in the second half. First, what appeared to be a foul inside their box went uncalled and in the next sequence of play the Blue and White won a free kick.
Zelaya hit the ball into the box and defender Victor Turcios went to the ground with his arm extended. The referee, Puerto Rican Javier Santos, signaled for a goal kick before looking up and seeing his Canadian assistant Philippe Briere walking toward the area. That was enough to sway Santos to point to the spot and call a shocking penalty. Zelaya’s penalty was saved, but he was able to knock in the rebound and put his team through to the quarterfinals.
That meant that Haiti’s fate rested upon how seriously Honduras took its final match against Trinidad and Tobago. Los Catrachos rested a handful of players who had started the previous match and the Socca Warriors took advantage, gaining passage to the knockout stages with a 2-0 win. That meant Haiti on the outside looking in, surely feeling aggrieved about the penalty that was given because of a miscommunication. This isn’t the worst setback the Haitian program has ever faced, but it is undoubtedly frustrating to be knocked out in that fashion.
El Salvador doesn’t seem to fear the United States, with Turcios reminding a reporter in an interview that the U.S. isn’t the Spanish national team. Much more to come previewing that match on ASN as it approaches.
Taking a page out of the United States’ book, Jamaica has hired a German to lead the national team. Winfried Schafer was confirmed as the new coach only a day after Stephen Constantine was rumored to be in line for the job.
Last week, we told you about the delay of Tigres-América in Liga MX play because the defending champs have four players out because of the Gold Cup. Chivas is in the same boat and their opener with Santos will also be postponed, writes Tom Marshall. His piece also talks the high level of optimism after an undefeated preseason. Knowing Chivas, that won’t last long.
Salvadoran winger Jaime Alas hasn’t been getting minutes at Rosenborg, so he’s headed off to the San Jose Earthquakes on a six-month loan with the option to buy. He’ll be in the U.S. as soon as he can get a visa. One note here, many data outlets reported that Alas played in his nation’s Gold Cup match against Honduras wearing the number 16 shirt, when it was actually his former teammate Marcelo Posadas. Alas isn’t in the Gold Cup squad.
There was a friendly scheduled to take place in New Orleans between Honduran champions Olimpia and Costa Rican giants Alajuelense (champions of the penultimate tournament). That friendly had been canceled. Olimpia is in in Miami where it will still play Colombian side Millonarios and a couple local teams. La Liga will stay in Costa Rica where they’re set to play Fulham on Wednesday night.
Just like that domestic leagues are starting up again in Central America with both Mexico and Panama getting started among others. We’ll have coverage as usual, but make sure to check back Friday for a U.S.-centric Liga MX preview.
Video of the Week
Speaking of Olimpia, their Palacios brother, Johnny, was featured in this Big Nango music video for the song “Inexplicable”. “But Jon!” I can hear you saying already. “Didn’t Big Nango drop the video for that song last year?” He did, but this is the remix featuring El Boy C, JCP, & Fresh. As the Diez article that tipped me off to this gem started, have you ever seen a Honduran soccer player in a music video featuring a luxury car, great clothes, and with a beautiful woman?
Now you have. Palacios started Honduras’ group match against Trinidad and Tobago but likely won’t feature in the knockout stages.
Jon Arnold is an ASN contributing editor. Follow him on Twitter.