GOLD CUP: Notes on the Semifinal
With the Gold Cup semifinals taking place in Houston I got the chance to get some notes from the teams during their press and training day Tuesday. The general consensus was that the teams all respect each other and feel the competition level is the highest it’s been in the tournament for quite some time.
Here are some notes on each team from the day ahead of the final four.
Mexico: Reinforcements arrive
With the Mexico in Houston since Sunday night El Tri is settling in rather nicely. The team is confident and it’s easy to understand why with the run of form they’re on. However, the team got a boost in way of three players joining the squad Monday. Since June 9 when five players were ruled out of the squad for failing a drug test the Mexicans have been playing shorthanded.
Today the replacements were presented to the media. Defenders Héctor Reynoso, Paul Aguilar and Hiram Mier all participated in their first — and only — practice Monday. With the Mexican bringing in players, the squad is finally back at full strength and ready to take on Honduras.
Honduras: Irked by replacements
A day ahead of the semifinal against Mexico, Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez took the time to denounce the decision to allow Mexico to replace their suspended players. Honduras’ head man said in a press conference that if the Mexicans were allowed to bring in reinforcements his squad should be able to as well. It’s an idea that makes sense but it could be considered a distraction ahead of a match against heavily favored Mexico.
On the field, the team trained at the University of Houston in front a large Honduran crowd. With dangerous players such as Carlo Costly and Jerry Bengsten readying for a tough battle Honduras is primed to show that they can hold their own against El Tri.
Panama: Ready for round two
While most of the media and fans feel the team’s group stage win over the USA was an upset, Panama is ready to show they can duplicate the feat. According to coach Julio Delay Valdes the first win was not a surprise to his team and a second would not be a shock. Valdes portrayed confidence in his squad ahead of their semifinal with the USA. Despite the USA once again being favored the Panamanians are looking to show the region they’re a top team.
Both teams played down the absence of Blais Perez, who’ll miss the semifinal due to a red card received for a dispute between regulation and extra time Sunday night. Perez – Panama’s top attacker – will be tough to replace.
USA: Revenge not an issue
The USA went to great lengths to play down the role of revenge in their rematch with the Panama. Yet in talking to the players it was clear the first match had a big influence on how the team prepared for the match.
To a man the team said the right things about not concentrating on revenge but their comments about the match had a consistent theme: we’re going to fix what went wrong.
Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Michael Bradley were adamant that the team knows how dangerous Panama can be and how hard it can be to break them down. That coupled with their new found confidence from their 2-0 win over Jamaica. The USA is looking to move the ball and put pressure on the Panama defense.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com and contributes to Soccerlens.com during the Gold Cup. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.