The tournament begins with 16 teams all vying to be the one that lifts the ultimate prize. But on July 7th, one nation will be crowned Gold Cup Champions.
Canada has been there before. They’ve even hoisted the trophy once in 2000 (and once in 1985 before it became its current format). If nothing else, this is the one tournament that Canadian Men’s soccer actually performs relatively well. With two third place finishes to go along with their one win in the 14 editions of the Gold Cup, one could say that Canada has a chance every time they hit the pitch in the CONCACAF tournament.
This year is no different. A strong, young Canadian squad led by the likes of Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, Jonathan Osorio, Cyle Larin, and Lucas Cavallini just to name a few looks more attacking than ever with enough pedigree in their ranks to upset the favourite Mexicans or Americans should they get that far. When you mix in the experienced heads of Atiba Hutchinson, Scott Arfield, and Milan Borjan, it’s hard to say that this team will be run over by any team in this tournament. A young core who are hungry for international success to mirror their success at club level could be primed for a deep run in this year’s Gold Cup. An eleven that boasts players from the biggest leagues in the world is nothing to shake a stick at and with the pace and trickery of Canada’s attacking players, they will fill the net with ease.
Jonathan David is primed to have a great tournament as this could be seen as his coming out party to the rest of the world. American-born David started playing soccer late compared to most of his international teammates. His parents didn’t immigrate to Canada from Haiti until he was six, and was ten years old when he started with Gloucester Dragons SA in the Ottawa area until joining Ottawa Internationals. Currently he plys his trade at Belgian club Gent, but a deep Gold Cup run with a few goals could see him seal a move to a bigger European club. David has been on the scoresheet four times in the four senior call ups he’s had, as well as his goal scoring record at Gent, would stand to reason that David could fill the net in major tournaments for years to come. Us at the Starting XI see Jonathan David as the breakout player of the tournament.
The bigger question on everyone’s mind is: What’s in the water in Brampton, Ontario? 6 players of the 23 who will travel with Canada are from the GTA city that seems to be a hotbed for Canadian sports talent. Doneil Henry, Junior Hoilett, Liam Millar, Hutchinson, Osorio, and Larin all hail from the city with a population of just over 600,000. For those of you who may not be great with numbers…that’s 1 in 100,000. Compare that to the City of Toronto, which is sending 5 players with a population of 2.8 million. That’s a ratio of 1 in 560,000. Many different factors play into this with Brampton having a high level of competition in the youth ranks as well as a gluton of youth-aged players. So much so that new clubs are popping up all the time with the new academy system expanding within the GTA as well. The high level of competition obviously bodes well for the National team as we can clearly see in the current squad.
Canada’s group has an obvious favourite in Mexico, but then the quality drops off heavily with Martinique and Cuba rounding out Group A. The top two teams from each of the four groups will advance to the quarter finals, and with the Mexicans being the tournament favourites, Canada may have to settle for that second spot. The Canadians have the firepower to stand up against the best in CONCACAF and are a team that are on the up.
A second place finish in their group would put them up against the winner of Group B. Which would leave the possible matchups as Costa Rica, Haiti, Nicaragua, or Bermuda. Costa Rica is one of the hosts of the tournament, so it stands to reason that they will finish top in that group.
This scenario would have the Canadians facing off against the host Costa Ricans in Houston, which may play into the Canadian’s hands having a covered stadium which the Costa Ricans may not necessarily be used to. But the Costa Ricans would be a formidable opponent with the likes of Joel Campbell, Kendall Waston, and Bryan Ruiz still in their ranks. Keep in mind this is just a prospective quarter final opponent, but we have to remember: The ball is round.
Canada takes on Martinique on June 15th to open the Gold Cup.