Good Monday morning all. The Caps are back this week, as World Cup/Gold Cup/Copa America/AFCON all roll on.
Last column broke down the Gold Cup and the relative parity that has broken out (for once) in the tournament. So naturally the first weekend of play featured three blowouts, as Canada, Mexico and Costa Rica all won with ease.
Canada’s 4-0 win over Martinique was a solid, yet imperfect start, to their campaign. Even against the Carribean island nation, the backline was tested at times but that was counteracted by Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David carving up the opposition. It was David’s coming out party internationally and it underscores the potential headache the pair will likely create for Mexico later in the group stage.
But the best viewing was found last night, as Costa Rica hosted the first Gold Cup match outside the usual U.S./Canada/Mexico triumvirate. As a contrast to Saturday night, where Canada/Martinique drew what appeared to be 26 El Tri fans who got to the stadium early, both matches in San Jose drew relatively well. CONCACAF will replicate that feat tonight, when Jamaica and Honduras headline a double header in Kingston.
The U.S. and, to a much lesser extent, Mexico and Canada, has long been the preferred destination for the Gold Cup given the ease with which the nation can host such a tournament, the easy access to immigrant populations from virtually all the participating teams and, of course, the fact that the USSF cash cow needs to be milked.
But as Saturday night’s opener illustrated, their is a danger to this approach as well. In matches not featuring the U.S., Mexico or other countries with a significant expat population, attendance is downright woeful. The motivating factor, presumably, in the decision to hold group stage matches in Costa Rica and Jamaica was that those games would stand to have much better attendance in those locations, and thus make CONCACAF more money.
This decision, however, is one of the rare ones that was a win for everyone. The Canada/Martinique match, while featuring some electric moments on the pitch, had zero atmosphere; viewers could hear players on the field shouting instructions to each other. The Costa Rica/Nicaragua match, though, featured much more energy (despite the omnipresent vuvuzelas that gave me nightmare-like flashbacks to the 2010 World Cup). This was despite the fact that the stadium was roughly half full (a decision, no doubt, impacted by the ticket prices set by CONCACAF for the occassion).
In a competition like the Gold Cup, which can often be quite stale as we march towards the inevitability of the U.S. or (more likely) Mexico lifting the trophy, giving viewers something different is welcome. Fans in Costa Rica and Jamaica win by getting a chance to see their teams compete in a continental tournament on home soil. The only losers are the two dozen fans of Bermuda in, say, St. Louis which don’t get to see the match (sorry guys).
Even though I benefit immensely from the status quo as an American, I would love to see CONCACAF deal in more of the nations which have historically taken a backseat in the confederation. Obviously there are issues of security and resources; many, if not most, of the member nations would have to invest in order to pull off hosting even a few group stage matches. But the confederation should help underwrite these costs—getting more of its members involved in a competition like the Gold Cup can help change the reality that is American and Mexican dominance (on and off the pitch) and energize a competition that is almost universally agreed to be a notch or two below other continental competitions.
With that, lets take a look at some links, shall we?
Best of the Rest
No MLS means a slow weekend at 86Forever HQ but (as always) we have the best from other outlets on offer:
Copa America is also off the mark with a rather humdrum opening weekend. The big stories? MLS man Nico Lodeiro scored a worldie as Uruguay beat 10-man Ecuador 4-0 and Argentina flopped in their first match, falling to Colombia 2-0
And in World Cup action, Canada vaulted by New Zealand 2-0 to reach the knockout stages. Meanwhile the U.S. dispatched with Chile 3-0, despite a stunning performance from Chilean keeper Christiane Endler
MLS’ Bobby Warshaw looks at the best player on each team at the midway point of the season. Hint: Vancouver’s choice will not surprise you
And one I missed last week: a cool, behind the scenes look at one of the strangest teams in lower division American soccer, Las Vegas Lights
As always, I’ll meet you in the comments are open for your #takes on the Gold Cup, Caps transfer rumors and anything else you want to discuss.