The consensus before the Gold Cup was this Jamaican team was the best assembled in quite some time. Still they were a popular pick to finish behind Honduras in the group. Monday night the Reggae Boyz dispatched Honduras with a 1-0 victory on the back of a Ryan Johnson goal to seal the group win and set up a match against the second place team in group C – currently slated as the USA.
Sticking to a winning formula of blending speed with sharp passing and timely finishing, the Reggae Boyz capitalized on a series of passes that resulted in a Johnson bullet from 25 yards out. Johnson’s – who failed to capitalize on a second half penalty kick that would sealed the victory – goal put the Reggae Boyz on top for good.
Needing a win Honduras pushed hard to equalize but it wasn’t to be for the Catratchos who finish second in the group and will face reeling Costa Rica in the quarterfinals. The loss could be costly – no pun intended – as Carlo Costly was forced to leave the match in the first half after suffering a knock following a diving header.
For Jamaica the group stage win officially announces that the talented team is a legitimate contender. It also puts them on the opposite side of the bracket from Mexico. Without El Tri in their bracket Jamaica should be considered the favorite to reach the finale against heavily favored Mexico based on current form.
In the early game Guatemala took advantage of an overmatched Grenada, riding a standout two goal performance from Chicago Fire ace Marco Pappa to a 4-0 win. Heading into the day Guatemala was on one point and needed to win by two or more to push their goal differential above El Salvador and guarantee passage to the knockout stages.
The four goal victory did the trick as the win tied El Salvador – the third place team in group A – on four points but pushed Guatemala to a +2 goal differential. With El Salvador finishing with a -1 differential the result booked passage for Guatemala in the group stage against either the winner of group A or C.
The ramifications of the result put El Salvador’s future in jeopardy. A result for Canada and the USA would push El Salvador out of the tournament. If either team fails to earn a point El Salvador will move through and face the winner of group C while Guatemala would face Mexico in the quarterfinals.
Updated quarterfinals projection
– Costa Rica (A2) v. Honduras (B2)
– Mexico (A1) v. Guatemala (B3)/Canada (C3)*
– Jamaica (B1) v. USA (C2)
– Panama (C1) v. El Salvador (A3)/Guatemala (B3)*
* If group C third place team qualifies they’ll play Mexico while Guatemala will play Panama in the quarterfinals. If El Salvador qualifies they’ll play Panama and Guatemala will play Mexico in the quarterfinals.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com and contributes to Soccerlens.com during the Gold Cup. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.