8 conclusions from the 2013 Gold Cup
Mexican captain Joel Huiqui won’t be the only one disappointed by his Gold Cup finish this year. The defending champions lost their semi-final while Canada went out in the first round with a whimper. Although this was only a ‘B’ Gold Cup – which didn’t make much sense for Canada, considering this is their only action until 2015 and this year’s winner gets a shot at the Confederations Cup – we still learned something about the region’s teams going into the rest of World Cup qualifying this year.
Had they won today, Panama would have guaranteed a spot in all future Gold Cups – at least by CONCACAF’s logic. For years, we’ve been told that the three NAFTA countries qualified automatically to each Gold Cup as the three former winners – nothing at all to do with the fact that they’re the only CONCACAF countries who don’t neatly fit into Caribbean and Central American regional qualifying.
Panamanian coaching duo the Dely Valdes twins might be onto bigger things after the World Cup next year, whether Panama qualify or not. Head coach Julio is fondly remembered by Malaga fans from before they were any good, and he learned his trade as an assistant at the Spanish club before their Qatari owners came in.
Until the US’ final win, Canada were the only team to take anything from Panama in this Gold Cup. Here’s some straws to clutch on for anyone trying to view the Colin Miller era in anything but a negative light. In truth, Canada’s performances likely gave incoming manager Benito Floro second thoughts about his new job.
The US’ depth is scary. Outside of Canada’s top 25 players or so, we would struggle to put together a competitive side – Mexico, too, struggled with a ‘B’ team at the Gold Cup. The US, though, barely missed a beat, racking up some big wins with a squad of mostly US-based and fringe players. The scary thing is, some of the standouts from their Gold Cup win might not even be Jürgen Klinsmann’s best options for the World Cup squad next year.
Panama’s players saw their stock rise throughout this Gold Cup. The country’s record in this tournament can no longer be dismissed as a fluke, and along with their World Cup qualifying run, something is going right with football in that country. The average wage of their Gold Cup squad must be staggeringly low compared to the US team, and many of the domestic-based players will be on the radar of MLS clubs after this tournament – Alberto Quintero in particular shone on the left wing and could be one of the first to go.
Stuart Holden could be out for a while. He collided with Quintero in the first half of today’s final and sprained it while landing a bit funny. That’s the same knee that kept him out for nearly two years of action for Bolton. All we know at the moment is that it looks bad.
Mexican coach “Chepo” de la Torre is on very thin ice. If Mexico went for a foreign coach again, they could do worse than the Dely Valdes twins, who masterminded two 2-1 victories over El Tri at the Gold Cup, including the semifinal. I can’t imagine Julio and Jorge would leave Panama for a rival, though, at least not before qualifying is all but lost. If things become bleak for Panama in the coming games and Mexico need a late surge to qualify, then it might make sense for the twins to come in and right the ship.
The US’ hosting was exemplary again, but we can dream about a future where the Gold Cup is rotated around like in every other confederation. Other than some issues at Cowboys Stadium, the US showed why they’re the only logical choice for hosting – but if every other tournament is a ‘B’ Gold Cup, then why not spread one around? Canada, Mexico or even Panama could easily host a group if CONCACAF is willing to try something new.