The United States is heavily favored in its Gold Cup quarterfinal match against Curacao in Philadelphia on Sunday night, but that doesn’t mean the US men are looking past their next opponent.
The Americans are the defending champions in the Gold Cup, and are perfect so far in the tournament, going 3-0 in the group stage without conceding a single goal.
Curacao Playing David to USA’s Goliath
Even with the US men’s national team still reeling from failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the United States remains one of the regional powers in CONCACAF, and is looking to earn a seventh Gold Cup title – a total that would match Mexico for the most in tournament history.
Curacao doesn’t share that same history. The small Caribbean island nation has never qualified for the World Cup, and its appearance in the 2017 Gold Cup – its first since 1973 – ended with an 0-3 run in the group stage in which it failed to score a goal.
But things are turning around for the nation’s soccer program. In 2017, Curacao surprisingly won the CFU Caribbean Cup. And in the Gold Cup group stage, it went 1-1-1, earning a win over Honduras before drawing Jamaica on a goal in second half stoppage time to go through to the quarterfinals.
None of those achievements are enough for experts to give the nation much of a chance against the United States. But it has put Curacao on the CONCACAF radar, and has certainly gotten the attention of US manager Gregg Berhalter.
“I don’t think they could be a dangerous team, they are a dangerous team,” Berhalter told reporters on Saturday. “We’ve been watching them in all their games. We’ve been watching them in their lead-up games. And we’ve presented it in a way to the players where we know this is a good test. We know this is a difficult opponent and we’re ready to perform.”
The United States ran out a lineup of backups against Panama on Wednesday, meaning the starters should be well-rested for the knockout rounds. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that some players won’t have earned a spot in the lineup for their performances against Panama. In particular, Jozy Altidore impressed in the final group stage match, leading many to believe he could get a run against Curacao as well.
“There’s always competition for spots,” Berhalter said. “I know Jozy is an outstanding player. We know he can help this team, and I know he has a lot to give. But I don’t think any player is guaranteed to start.”
Mexico, USA Remain Gold Cup Favorites
Regardless of the lineup they run out, the Americans are heavily favored to go through to the semifinals. The USA is -800 on the money line to win in regulation according to FanDuel Sportsbook, and -2000 to advance to the next round. The United States is a two-goal favorite in the match.
The winner of this match with take on the winner of the Jamaica vs. Panama game, which is taking place earlier on Sunday. The other semifinal will see Haiti, which overcame a two-goal deficit to beat Canada 3-2, take on Mexico, which beat Costa Rica in a shootout to advance after a 1-1 draw.
William Hill has Mexico as the 8/11 favorite to win the Gold Cup, with the USA as a 7/4 second choice.