The Gold Cup 2017 kicks off on Friday at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey, and there is plenty to be excited about this year. While frontrunners USA and current champions Mexico may be resting their major stars, those on their respective rosters have everything to prove and will be vying for attention as the World Cup approaches next year. There’s also a range of dark horses and plucky minnows who are sure to give the tournament some added intrigue...
1. Dom Dwyer seeks to build on dream debut
English-born striker Dom Dwyer couldn’t have asked for a better start to his International career. Amusingly making his US debut on July 4th weekend, it took English-born and newly minted US citizen Dwyer just 19 minutes to register his first goal - an emphatic volley against Ghana, which he followed up with an equally impressive acrobatic celebration.
Dwyer had an unremarkable youth career at Norwich City before transferring across the pond for college. Since going pro at Sporting Kansas City in 2012, he has made a name for himself as a goal-scoring frontman. Now, Dwyer will be hoping to give Bruce Arena a selection headache and turn out for his adopted homeland in Russia next summer.
2. Mexico out to avenge disappointing Confed Cup exit
Fresh off a fourth place finish at the Confederations Cup - and with mounting calls for his departure - Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio has picked a young and largely inexperienced side for the Gold Cup. 17 of their 23-man roster have fewer than 10 caps, and there are four potential debutants; this includes defender Alejandro Mayorga, who is yet to even feature for his club Chivas. The name most familiar — and perhaps most frightening — to MLS fans is Houston Dynamo’s Erick Torres, who was called up to replace the injured Alan Pulido. Torres has already scored 12 goals this season and is second in the race for the MLS Golden Boot.This 'C' team will be hoping to keep the trophy in Mexico after taking home the trophy in 2015.
3. Canada mixes youth and veterans
Canada’s squad is truly a blend of young and old, as 16-year-old Alphonso Davies joins Patrice Bernier, 37, in the roster. Davies made MLS history this season when he became the first player born in the new millenium to play in the league, and his extraordinary life story continued with his International debut last month after having only just gained his Canadian citizenship. The Vancouver Whitecaps defender was born in a Ghanaian refugee camp in 2000 as his parents fled the Liberian Civil War and immigrated to Canada when he was 5. 21 years his senior, Montreal Impact captain Bernier is playing his final season for both club and country. He will be hoping he can go out having helped Canada achieve something they have not since the year Davies was born: win the Gold Cup.
4. Can Jamaica repeat their heroics of 2015?
While Jamaica ultimately slumped to a 3-1 defeat to Mexico in the 2015 Final, their route there was impressive in and of itself. A 2-1 victory over the USA at a packed Georgia Dome was as momentous for the victors as it was embarrassing for the hosts. However, only seven players remain from Jamaica's 2015 squad as the “Reggae Boyz” go through something of a rebuild. Eleven of these players are with U.S. clubs, including four in the USL. With Mexico likely to top Group C, Jamaica will have to battle it out with El Salvador and Curacao, who defeated them in last month’s Caribbean Cup Final, to qualify for the knockout stage.
5. The new USMNT kit is a sight to behold
Unveiled last weekend, the special edition USMNT Gold Cup kit is a thing of beauty. One of the strongest interpretations of the red, white and blue to date, the colors are a little deeper than previous designs and the stars more subtle. The US players wore the shirt for the first time in the 2-1 friendly victory against Ghana, and will make sure the U.S. is looking good throughout the tournament no matter what.
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