With the 2019 Gold Cup Quarterfinals upon us, Red is ready to make his predictions for a tournament that usually has an all too predictable outcome (being Mexico or the U.S. wins).
Haiti over Canada – This is the toughest call as les Bicolores and the Cannucks have both looked impressive in group play. Jonathan David has been a break out player for Canada, but his 5 goals have come against questionable opponents. Look for tough defense from the Haitians to keep it close. Still this one should feature lots of fireworks. Haiti 3 Canada 2
Mexico over Costa Rica – Los Ticos were a hot pick for a while, but they have not replicated their 2014 World Cup success as of late. Meanwhile, El Tri is showing what futbol will look like in the post Chicharito, Marquez era. And it looks pretty good. El Tri will be playing in front of a wet home crowd in Houston on Saturday night. Red just wishes they wouldn’t throw those $10 beers in the air when El Tri scores. Mexico 4 Costa Rica 1.
Panama over Jamaica – With Navas out, Andre Blake of the Reggae Boys is probably the best keeper in the tournament. That won’t be enough unfortunately against a Panama side that has breakaway capability and good organization on the back line. Panama 1 Jamaica 0.
Curacao over U.S. – Red calls the upset here. Curacao has lots of players you have never heard of – mostly because they play in second tier European leagues. But those leagues feature some of the most competitive play because the stakes are so high for promotion to the big time or relegation to the real dregs. Top it off with keeper Eloy Room who looks like the real deal and will keep Curacao in this game until the very end. The U.S. features mostly MSL clubsters with a trio of English based players and one from Liga MX. Lately, the U.S. has not failed to disappoint the growing soccer fan base in the States. Unfortunately, that continues on Sunday as Curacao scores the biggest victory in its history. Curacao 2 U.S. 1.
Congratulation to Manager Wilmer Cabrera and the Houston Dynamo squad as they defeated the Philadelphia Union 3-0 on Wednesday to claim the 105th Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Forward Mauro Manotas led the way with a brace scoring in the 5th and 25th minute of the match with assists from Albert Elis. Manotas claimed the Open Cup’s Golden Boot award with the second goal totaling five goals for the tournament and 20 goals in all competitions this year. The game ending goal came in the 65th minute when forward Romell Quioto’s shot was saved by Union keeper Andre Blake but the clearance by Auston Trusty failed resulting in an own goal.
The Open Cup victory means the Dynamo will return to the CONCACAF Champions League in 2019. This was the Dynamo’s first U.S. Open Cup title. The club previously won the Major League Soccer Cup in 2006 and 2007 shortly after relocating to Houston.
Here is how Red fared in his Group Play predictions.
Group A Red – Uruguay and Egypt Group A Results – Uruguay and Russia
Group B Red – Portugal and Spain Group B Results – Spain and Portugal
Group C Red – France and Peru Group C Results – France and Denmark
Group D Red – Argentina & Iceland Group D Results – Croatia and Argentina
Group E Red – Brazil & Costa Rica Group E Results – Brazil and Switzerland
Group F Red – Germany & Mexico Group F Results – Sweden and Mexico
Group G Red – Belgium & England Group G Results – England and Belgium
Group H Red – Columbia & Poland Group H Results – Columbia and Japan
Red was 10 of 16 for the Round of 16. A really good grouping would be 12 or more out of 16, but Red is far from embarrassed by his picks. Red certainly did not see Croatia, Switzerland or Sweden as the powerhouses that they have proved to be in Group Play. Picking Peru over Denmark was probably Red’s biggest blunder followed by picking a shaky Egypt side over the team playing on home soil. Germany heading home probably surprised all but a very few prognosticators, but that is what happens when you score one goal – one goal!
FIFA announced today that the 2026 World Cup Finals (and please note that is the appropriate name for what begins tomorrow in Russia) will be played in the USA, Mexico and Canada. All three countries will receive automatic qualification for the Finals. The field will be expanded to 48 teams with additional slots likely awarded to COMEBOL, UEFA and CONCACAF. The USA will host 60 of the 80 games and Mexico and Canada 10 apiece. All games after the Round of 16 will be played in the USA with the Championship Game in New Jersey. Here’s hoping that Houston and Arlington will get games. Red’s goal – assuming he makes it that long – will be to attend at least one game in the USA, Mexico and Canada.
Red’s original call for the Copa America Centenario final was Argentina over Mexico. But then Chile gave Mexico an incredible ass-whomping in the quarter-finals and will now face Argentina on Sunday in New Jersey. So we are left with a rematch of last year’s Copa America final which Chile won on penalties on its home turf in Santiago.
Red thinks that Argentina breaks through this year and brings home its first major trophy since it won the CA in 1993. After being ever so close in the 2014 World Cup Finals, La Albiceleste takes this one. Red expects a close and high scoring game this time instead of the 0-0 draw in regulation that led to a shoot-out. The U.S. soccer crowd needs that kind of excitement. Plus, both teams have their scorers performing at top level in this tournament. Messi and Higuain for Argentina and Vargas and Sanchez for Chile have scored a total of 18 goals between them. Losing Lavezzi for the final will hurt, but Angel DiMaria is back so Argentina will not miss a beat. The only possible hitch for Argentina is if it comes down to a big play for Higuain who has choked away opportunities in the last two big finals for La Albiceleste.
Argentina 4, Chile 3
And for the third place game, well who really cares other than the players who might not get another chance to play in the CAC.
Tonight’s semi-final match between World No. 1 Argentina and 31st ranked USA (tucked neatly between the Czech Republic and Algeria) will be the biggest sporting event in Houston since the World Series in 2005. Sure there have been a couple of NFL Wildcard Playoff games and the occasional playoff appearance by the Rockets. But this is the world’s most popular sport in a match featuring the highest ranked team in the world in a tournament that is clearly vying for the second most important soccer event behind only the World Cup Finals. The 16 team Copa America Centenario features 3 of the top 5 teams in the world (Argentina, Columbia and Chile) and 5 of the top 10 (add in Brazil and Uruguay). The 24 team UEFA European Championship also features 5 of the top 10 and more teams in the top 50, but it’s contests have not been particularly compelling match-ups so far. And it will be hard to top the semi-final group of the CAC with Argentina, Columbia and Chile making up a world-class field. Only the US seemingly doesn’t belong and was helped along by the poor showings of Brazil and Uruguay in not making the knock-out rounds. We will see how it shakes out in Europe and if those final rounds will feature the same quality of competition.
Red Calls the Semi-Finals:
Argentina 4, USA 1 Red has been a big Argentina fan ever since Mexico 86 when Diego Maradona led El Albiceleste to its second World Cup title. But he is also loyal to his national squad – so this one will be interesting as Red really can’t lose no matter who wins. If Argentina moves on they have a chance at their first major trophy in an incredible 23 years – an eon for Argentinian fans. It the USA wins, it is a huge boost for soccer in this country and a chance for the USA to claim its biggest tournament win ever. All that said, it seems unlikely that the USA can keep up with the dynamic and versatile attack of El Albiceleste. Even without DiMaria, the Argentines have world best player Leo Messi and Italy Serie A superstar Higuain along with an entire team of players that can put the ball in the net (Otamendi even!). And while the Argentine center defense is somewhat suspect, the US is missing its best pure striker in Bobby Wood and will be somewhat hobbled in midfield with the absence of Bedoya. Look for the USA to make a game of it until about 70 minutes in and then the superiority of the Argentinian squad will put the game out of reach.
Chile 3, Columbia 1 The only possible problem for Chile is an emotional let down after their complete annihilation of Mexico in the quarter-final. Columbia did not play like the No. 3 team in the world in having to go to penalties to defeat a game Peruvian team. And Costa Rica beat them rather convincingly in group play. Meanwhile, Chile has rounded to form after an opening loss to the powerful Argentines. Look for the top scoring duo of Vargas (6 goals) and Sanchez (3 goals) to handle a Columbian squad that has had trouble getting balls on target all tournament. Vidal sitting out is a problem, but look for Chile to press, press, press and control the action throughout the match.
Red did fairly well in his picks coming out of group play. Red correctly called 6 of the 8 teams heading to the quarter-finals – missing out on Brazil and Uruguay. Brazil got bumped on a bad call when the referee missed a handball allowing Peru to beat Brazil for the first time in 31 years and Uruguay just plain sucked without Luis Suarez in the lineup.
The surprises of the tournament are Venezuela and Peru neither of whom figured to factor into the knockout rounds. So Red’s up-to-date revised picks for the quarter-finals are:
USA 3 Ecuador 1
Argentina 4 Venezuela 1
Mexico 2 Chile 1
Columbia 2 Peru 0
And if all goes right, Red y familia will be watching the US and Argentina next Tuesday before a packed house at NRG.