There are tough losses and then there’s what happened to Canada Tuesday night. Literally a fraction away from securing a spot in the knockout stages Panama pulled off a sobering goal to eliminate the Maple Leafs from the Gold Cup in the early game Tuesday night.
The loss will sting – Canada who many felt were a favorite to advance – for some time. Keying on the Gold Cup as an opportunity to show their talent on the regional stage, the Maple Leafs are left to wonder what if.
What if ‘keeper Ian Hirschfield had trapped that final save? What if – for all their attacking talent – they could have generated more chances? What if Tim Howard doesn’t pull off two fantastic saves on Ali Gerba in game one?
For all their talent and all their attacking potential Canada fell because of their inability to generate and capitalize on solid chances. To make matters worse was that Panama started only five “regulars”, resting players ahead of their weekend quarterfinal match against El Salvador – who qualified on goal differential over Canada.
Now the Maple Leafs will focus on world cup qualifying and will have a year to figure out what went wrong in a tournament they looked primed to do well in.
USA leaves much to be desired in win
With the early result the USA needed just a result to clinch a quarterfinal spot. On the back of a Jozy Altidore 25 yard rocket the USA put in what could only be categorized as a frustrating performance in their 1-0 win over Guadeloupe.
Rest assured the USA dominated in all facets of the game. Truthfully, if it were not for Guadeloupe goalkeeper Franck Grandel – who came up big for his team with a number of fantastic saves – the score would have been lopsided. Yet the USA was uncertain and unimpressive in front of goal.
On a number of occasions US players had Grandel and the Guadeloupe defense beat for point blank chances and simply missed the target. The most infuriating miss came late in the second half when Clint Dempsey attempted to collect the ball and push it into an open net from two yards out only to be dispossessed at the moment of truth.
The questionable finishing was the only blemish on an otherwise dominant performance. From their end line to the edge of the Guadeloupe six yard box they were great. Inside the six … not so much.
Stepping up in competition in Sunday’s match against Jamaica, – who look dangerous and will pose problems with their speed – the USA will have to figure out the formula to take advantage of those chances if it wants to beat the Reggae Boyz.
With the group stage over here’s how the quarterfinals look:
– Costa Rica v. Honduras Saturday 5PM ET, New Meadowlands Stadium, New Jersey (Telefutura)
– Mexico v. Guatemala– Saturday 8PM ET, New Meadowlands Stadium, New Jersey (Univision)
– Jamaica v. USA – Sunday 3PM ET, RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C. (Fox Soccer Channel)
– Panama v. El Salvador – Sunday 6PM ET, RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C. (Univision)
Check back in the next few days for previews of the quarterfinal matches.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com and contributes to Soccerlens.com during the Gold Cup. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.