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CONCACAF Gold Cup

Mexico, Jamaica earn trips to Gold Cup semis after wins in Glendale

Staunch Honduran defense earns no goals while defensive mistakes for Canada prove costly

Phoenix, well, Glendale really, hosted two CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal matches on Thursday night. The matches decided who would join Costa Rica and the United States as semifinalists in that tournament, CONCACAF’s top championship for national teams.

Jamaica 2 (Francis 6’, Williams 50’) – Canada 1 (Hoilett 61’)

Not too many fans came out to the early match at University of Phoenix stadium, and the few with Canadian and Jamaican flags were outnumbered by the platoons of early bird Mexican fans waiting to see El Tri. Still, they were treated to an entertaining contest.

Jamaica played a relatively conservative brand of soccer in their last two matches (Mexico and El Salvador), but came out aggressive early with a great run from Portland Timbers forward Darren Mattocks. From wide to the keeper’s left, he delivered a ball to Sean Francis, who was left in a surprisingly large space left open by the Canadian defense. Francis’s shot easily made it past Canadian keeper Milan Borjan.

Borjan, who plays for Polish side Korona Kielce, openly showed his frustration with his defenders on a number of occasions. His work kept the score at one goal against until minute 50, when Mattocks again found a possibility, this time gifting the ball to Romario Williams, a forward with the Charleston Battery. Borjan managed to get his fingertips on the shot, but only managed to push it further into the upper corner of the goal.

The Canadians started having more looks at goal, but Andre Blake, an All-Star keeper for the Philadelphia Union, made it near impossible for Canada to score. It took a player of Jamaican heritage to give Canada some hope. Junior Hoilet’s shot into the upper right cut Jamaica’s lead in half.

Unfortunately for the boys from up north, Blake’s work kept them from getting an equalizer.

Williams has two goals on the tournament so far, tied with teammate Mattocks.

México 1 (Pizarro 4’) – Honduras 0

37,404 fans packed the stadium to watch Mexico take on Honduras. Mexico prevailed but often struggled against a durable Honduran backline.

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Honduras only made the match after a controversial forfeit of a match by French Guiana. The three on-paper goals awarded in that “walkover” proved to be Honduras’s only of the tournament.

Honduras went with a starting line-up included six domestic players and two from the Houston Dynamo (Romel Quioto and Alberth Els) along with team captain Maynor Figueroa from FC Dallas. Mexico went with Cruz Azul keeper Jesús Corona and three players from current Mexican champions CD Guadalajara.

The match opened with chants of “¡México!” from the crowd and a pair of violent fouls, one for each side. Like the early match, the crowd was treated to an early goal: a fourth-minute tap-in from CD Guadalajara’s Rodolfo Pizarro.

That ball went past three Mexico players and was untouched by the Honduras defense. The Honduran backline organized itself better for the rest of the match. As much as their backline stymied the Mexican attack, they were unable to threaten Mexico.

Things changed in minute 64. Jesús Molina, who also plays midfield for CF Monterrey, proved influential in earlier matches for El Tri. Mexico’s more tentative performances in the tournament (against both Curaçao and Jamaica) came without him on the field. Molina was subbed off for defender Luis Rodriguez, and almost immediately, Honduras’s attack woke up.

Elis had a shot almost immediately. Honduras followed up with a few more chances, the best coming in minute 79 when Allans Vargas nearly scored directly off a corner kick.

It wasn’t to be: Honduras ended the match, and the tournament, scoreless.

Next up

Costa Rica and the United States will play a semifinal in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday. The last meeting between the two sides was a 4 - 0 loss in a World Cup qualifier in November 2016. That loss was enough to lead to the firing of then-US manager Jürgen Klinsmann. The last meeting between the two in the Gold Cup came in 2013, when the US won 1 - 0 off of a goal by Brek Shea.

Jamaica and Mexico will face off in the other semifinal on Sunday in Santa Clara. The two teams already played to a nil-nil draw during the group stage on July 13. They also played each other in the final in the 2015 Gold Cup, with Mexico winning 3-1 after an impressive undefeated run by Jamaica.

Ted Prezelski writes about all things soccer, fútbol and piłka nożna for TucsonSentinel.com and at the blog How Flair is Punished (mindingthe.net).


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Joshua Pearson/TucsonSentinel.com

Mexico defender Jair Pereira showed impressive pace to beat Carlos Lanza to a long ball.