By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Jul 10, 2023) US Soccer Players – This weekend’s Gold Cup quarterfinals were loaded with excitement and drama. It’s a testament to the higher level of play we have seen from Concacaf nations in recent years. It’s also a sign of the importance the Gold Cup continues to generate among the participating nations.
The USMNT’s 2-2 draw against Canada on Sunday night at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati proved the most riveting of the four quarterfinal matches. After coming from behind in extra time, the Americans advanced over Canada 3-2 on penalties. Here’s a preview of Wednesday’s semifinals.
USMNT vs. Panama (at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego)
After moving past Canada, the never-say-die United States hopes to reach their 13th Gold Cup final. Panama, on the other hand, reached the Gold Cup semifinals for the first time since 2015 after shutting out Qatar 4-0 in Saturday’s quarterfinal. Ismael Diaz scored the fastest hat trick in tournament history with three goals in just 10 minutes. Los Canaleros have reached the Gold Cup final in 2005 and 2013, losing both times to the United States.
It should be noted that Panama played a day earlier, while the Americans went 120 minutes in an emotion-filled match. This means the US will need to recover and remain extra focused when playing Panama. The US, who are the defending Gold Cup champions, have the players to overcome Panama and the mental toughness following the Canada win. Matt Turner, who played at last year’s World Cup, has been exceptional in goal. His two saves in the shootout against Canada proved crucial.
“I just trusted my instincts and typically, when I do that, I find myself having a lot more success,” Turner said.
Panama is a fast team that effectively uses its wingbacks to move the ball forward. The US will need to counter with speed of its own. Players like Cade Cowell and Gianluca Busio have been effective on the flanks and in midfield. Gold Cup top scorer Jesus Ferreira has six goals so far and Brandon Vazquez has three goals including the one that sent the quarterfinal to extra time.
Ultimately, it could be the ability “to stay calm, stay committed to what they’ve practiced” according to USMNT interim manager B.J. Callaghan, that gets the USMNT to another final.
Jamaica vs Mexico (at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas)
In the quarterfinals on Saturday against Costa Rica, Mexico played arguably its best half of the year to record a 2-0 win. Oberlin Pineda converted a penalty in the 52nd minute and Erick Sanchez scored three minutes from time for Mexico’s spot in the semifinals. Against Jamaica in the semifinals, Mexico will need more than a strong second-half. Their offense at this tournament has relied on Pineda and Luis Romo, both scoring twice so far.
Jamaica’s 1-0 win against Guatemala on Sunday booked them a ticket to the semis. Defender Amari’i Bell, who scored the game’s lone goal, is one of 12 players on the roster who play club soccer in England. For Bell, who plays for Luton Town, it was his first career national team goal.
Jamaica should prove to be Mexico’s toughest opponent to date at this Gold Cup. Offensively, Demarai Gray, who plays for Everton, has started all four games at this Gold Cup. He recorded an assist in the 1-1 draw against the United States in the group stage and added two goals in a 4-1 win against Trinidad and Tobago. His ability to find space and speed along the right flank should keep Mexico busy for much of the game.
Despite the offensive options on both sides, this game could ultimately end up being a dual of two of the best goalkeepers in the region. Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa and Jamaica’s Andre Blake could make this a low-scoring match and one where extra time or penalties will be needed to decide who advances to the final.
For Mexico, that would mean playing in its 11th Gold Cup final, lifting the trophy a record eight times, the last time coming in 2019. Jamaica, meanwhile, have reached the Gold Cup final twice, in 2015 and 2017, but have never won it.
“It’s an amazing feeling to get into the semifinal,” Bell said. “It’s something we set out to do, but we don’t want to stop here. We are going to keep on going and go and win the tournament.”
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.”
More from Clemente Lisi:
- Maurice Edu on covering MLS, moving into soccer broadcasting, and the 2022 World Cup
- Performance, depth, and the midfield highlight the USMNT in the 2022-23 Concacaf Nations League finals
- Preview: USMNT vs Mexico, 2022-23 Concacaf Nations League semifinals
- Another MLS season is already showing the strength of goalkeeping in the league
Photo by Concacaf.com