The Group Stage of the 2017 Gold Cup concluded on Sunday and, despite some shaky moments, the three highest-ranked nations — Costa Rica, Mexico and the USA — will all be in the Quarter Finals this week. All three are unbeaten, but no one side has convincingly proven why they should be crowned champions. Individually, on the other hand, there have been a number of entertaining displays. These are the five standout players of the tournament so far.
The 16-year-old Vancouver winger arrived at the tournament surrounded by great hype and a reputation as one of MLS’ most exciting young players. So far, he’s surpassed expectations. Davies was Canada’s man-of-the-match in their opener against French Guiana, scoring two goals that nutmegged the goalkeeper both times. Then, he struck again against Costa Rica with a cool finish into the top corner after using his pace to get in round the back of the defense.
Canada now appear to have a Christian Pulisic of their own, a teenage sensation capable of changing the course of a game and creating an unprecedented level of excitement for the national team. Les Rouges may be the lowest ranked country left in the tournament, but with an in-form Davies they can still pose a threat to anyone.
Joining Davies as the joint-top goalscorer in the Group Stage, Martinique striker Kévin Parsemain gave USMNT fans a scare with his brace in a tight, 3-2 defeat for the Caribbean side. His performance that night left many fans wishing their team possessed a player of his talent.
Parsemain was once a trialist for the Seattle Sounders, but never actually played a minute in MLS after picking up an ACL injury. Martinique may not have qualified for the QFs, but Parsemain certainly made his mark and will be on the radar of many more MLS clubs and beyond.
The Jamaica and Philadelphia Union No. 1 has guided his country into the Knockout stage of the Gold Cup once again. Blake, who was named the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2016, produced an imperious display against Curacao with six saves that helped secure a clean sheet and Jamaica’s 2-0 victory. He was then at it again against Mexico, shutting out El Tri in the key game in their group. Blake will need to have his wits about him again to keep Alphonso Davies’ Canada at bay in the Quarters.
The Group Stage allowed Bruce Arena to test out some youngsters and less experienced players, and it was perhaps Kelyn Rowe of the New England Revolution who made the biggest impact. Rowe came alive in the USA’s first game against Panama, gliding down the wing to provide the assist for Dom Dwyer’s opener. He got on the scoresheet himself later against Nicaragua, a neat finish with the outside of the boot.
With Arena opting to call up an experienced old guard to the roster for the Quarters, including Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley, Rowe will unfortunately now return to club football. It seems the USA manager is playing it safe, banking on these additions to get them to the final instead of sticking with “B team.” Rowe will know there is little more he could have done to help his cause, but he deserves to be a part of the national team again soon.
Honduras have had a strange tournament so far; their only “victory” was awarded to them as punishment to French Guiana for fielding Florent Malouda, who was deemed ineligible to play by CONCACAF, and they are yet to actually put the ball in the net. However, Honduras have looked tight at the back, and center back Henry Figueroa has been pivotal in helping to keep two clean sheets. Playing alongside his namesake and captain Maynor Figueroa (no relation), Henry is strong in the air and capable of playing the ball out.
Interestingly, Maynor made the transition to European football at 24 when he moved to Wigan Athletic on loan – a club he would go on to make 200 appearances for. Henry is that age now, and his international performances suggest that he is ready to test himself in another league outside of his native Honduras.
You can follow Hugo on Twitter at @HugoGreenhalgh.