By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Jul 17, 2023) US Soccer Players – Another edition of the Gold Cup came to an end Sunday with Mexico defeating Panama 1-0 at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. Santiago Jimenez scored the game’s only goal in the 88th minute to give Mexico its ninth Gold Cup. Guillermo Ochoa, who was named the tournament’s best goalkeeper, has now lifted the trophy five times – more than any other player in history.
“The environment was like being in a World Cup,” Mexico’s interim coach Jaime Lozano told reporters. “It wasn’t like a Gold Cup. I’m dreaming after I saw a stadium like we saw today and to provide people with the happiness we’ve seen. Again, the team gave everything. We knew that we were writing history and you have to take these opportunities.”
Here are five things we learned from the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup.
USMNT players gain tournament experience
While the US exited to Panama in the semifinals via penalties, the tournament created opportunities in terms of player development and depth. Jesus Ferreira finished as the Gold Cup’s top scorer, with seven goals in five games. The feat tied Clint Dempsey’s USMNT record for the most goals in a single Gold Cup.
Other players also had strong tournaments. Matt Turner continued to demonstrate why he’s one of the region’s top goalkeepers and the tournament experience for many who took part should prove valuable. Striker Brandon Vazquez (who scored three goals as a sub), center back Jalen Neal (only 19, but comfortable controlling the backline), and winger Cade Cowell (whose bursts of speeds and ball control were impressive) were among a few of the highlights from the past few weeks.
Mexico lifts a trophy
Nearly eight months after the country’s worst performance in a World Cup in 44 years, El Tri took a step in the right direction by winning the Gold Cup. The win was also a confidence boost for Lozano, the team’s third coach in less than a year. Lozano, who led Mexico to the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, was given the job just before the start of the tournament and after Mexico lost to the US in the semifinals of the Nations League.
The team featured 10 players who Lozano had coached at the Olympics. Mexico’s defense proved key at this tournament, conceding just twice in six games. What’s next for Mexico is the same as it is for all of the Concacaf contenders, showing that they can put together a side capable of consistently getting results with the Nations League and Copa America now on the horizon.
Panama’s bright future
Panama reached its third Gold Cup final, putting in a performance over the past few weeks. That was no shock, with the Panamanians placed fifth in the Concacaf qualifying for Qatar 2022, just one spot away from the playoff that Costa Rica earned, and later won, to reach the finals. Houston Dynamo midfielder Adalberto Carrasquilla was one of the standouts for a squad continuing to build and now looking towards a fall schedule of Nations League games in League A, group A.
“There has been an important evolution of the team, we have progressed, and it was important to have the trust of the federation because it was a disappointment not to go to the World Cup,” said manager Thomas Christiansen. “I don’t like the word failure because we did a lot of things right in the past, but maybe the fruits are going to come now.”
Jamaica’s stock also rises
The Reggae Boyz put together a strong team to this Gold Cup. They looked like contenders for much of the competition before losing in the semifinals to Mexico. The roster featured 12 players who ply their trade in England. Five others, including veteran goalkeeper Andre Blake, play in MLS.
This mix of European-based players and MLS stars could prove to be a winning formula for a Jamaica side that could be among the favorites to qualify for the next World Cup, which will feature 48 teams and features a qualifying process that won’t include the US, Mexico, and Canada who have already reached the finals automatically as co-hosts.
Qatar’s Gold Cup run
The 2022 World Cup hosts played at the Gold Cup as an invitee, making their second appearance following their quarterfinal finish in 2021. This time around, they went 1-1-1 in the group stage before a 4-0 quarterfinal loss to Panama 4-0. Of note is that Qatar was the only team to beat Mexico, winning the final group B game 1-0 with Mexico already in the quarterfinals and opting for a rotated lineup. Under veteran coach Carlos Queiroz, Qatar is getting games that matter in advance of hosting January’s 2024 AFC Asian Cup.
Clemente Lisi is a regular contributor to US Soccer Players. He is also the author of the new book “The FIFA World Cup: A History of the Planet’s Biggest Sporting Event.”