The 2013 Gold Cup: Wait, No Mexico This Time?
It was a double-header that featured the final round of group matches for all four teams in Group B -- El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras and Trinidad & Tobago. We learned after the second match -- Honduras vs Trini -- that Haiti was the only team not advancing to the knockout stage.
We also learned five other things from last night's Group B finale.
5. All four teams have a common enemy...
For the first 135 minutes of football at BBVA, it seemed like it was going to be raining goals. Unfortunately, fans were only rewarded once, and that was from the penalty spot.
El Salvador completely dominated Haiti, but were themselves dominated by the goal post. Somehow, they managed to hit the framework a total of three times, which is pretty remarkable. The goal post is only 24' x 8' with a 4" diameter. But by some divine intervention, La Selecta was able to knock the ball of the post three times. The odds are actually in your favor to actually make the goal as opposed to hitting the goal post three times.
But at least El Salvador kept it entertaining. Honduras and Trini didn't come close to sniffing a goal in their first half. Although their matchup was at least a better watch.
4. Refs take matters into their hands
The referees themselves wanted to see some action. And if the four teams weren't going to score on their own, then CONCACAF's finest were going to make sure Houston fans left happy.
In the 74th minute of the first match between El Salvador and Haiti, referee Javier Santos pointed to the spot when a Haitian defender mulled over his adversary inside box.
Rodolfo Zelaya stepped up to take a shot, only to be blocked by the Haitian goalkeeper. But as luck would have it, the ball bounced right in front of Zelaya, who was able to bury the rebound behind the net to seal the 1-0 win.
The second affair was almost guaranteed to have a penalty called even before the match began. That's because Marco "Chiquidrácula" Rodriguez was tabbed to officiate the match. For those unfamiliar with our Mexican friend, El Chiquidrácula is notorious for handing out cards and awarding penalties.
He, of course, added to his reputation when he put Trini on the penalty spot minutes after the start of the second half. Unlike Zelaya, Trini forward Kenwyne Jones easily finished his PK, giving the Soca Warriors their first lead.
3. Trini played inspired football
It would be the only lead Trini needed. They would eventually add a second goal from Kevin Molino in the 66th minute. Although they started out the match conceding possession to los Catrachos, Trini found its form around the 25th minute. In the 33rd minute, Honduras would find itself down a man when Jose Velasquez was sent off for a vicious tackle from behind.
El Salvador never responded after that. Trini had a high line was constantly putting pressure on the ball, creating costly turnovers. Both goals were direct results of Trinidad and Tobago's aggressiveness.
What makes this more amazing is that they are advancing on to the knockout stage as the two seed in Group B. This from a team that was on a 11-match winless streak.
One thing's for sure, Monday night was a party night in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago.
2. No love-lost for these Central American powers
The fans don't like each other -- I mean, they'll have a beer together, but they won't cheer for each other. Which is funny because they both wear the same color jerseys.
During the first match, Honduran fans were heckling Salvadorian fans their team's inability to put the finishing touches on goal. In the end, though, their team won their match.
So when the second match began, Salvadorian fans a chance to return the favor. There was a small contingent of Trinidadians at the stadium, yet it was the Salvadorian fans who screamed the loudest when Trini got on the score sheet.
So as it turns out, the Salvadorian fans had plenty to cheer about -- their team won and Honduras didn't.
1. Teams advancing past the quarterfinals
Although three teams advanced past the group stage, it's difficult to imagine any of these teams playing past the simi-final.
Trinidad mostly likely looks to face Mexico. Mexico, who's under pressure to win now, will probably get destroyed in that match.
Honduras, despite the loss, had already booked its place before the start of the game. As the Group B winner, they look to face the loser between the U.S. and Costa Rica tomorrow night.
El Salvador has a harder phase. They're facing Panama, which looks to be a great match.