Both Mexico and Cuba will be seeking a bright start to their respective 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup campaigns when they meet in the opening round of Group A on Saturday night at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. 

Jamaica men’s football national coach Theodore Whitmore has admitted to being awed by the talent of the Bayer Leverkusen winger Leon Bailey but more so the player’s positive attitude and work ethic.

The 21-year-old underwent a tumultuous couple of years relating to his involvement with the national, as a dispute with the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) kept him off the field.  All that seems to be firmly behind the parties involved, however, as by all accounts, the player has fit into the Reggae Boyz squad with little fuss.

“We've been very impressed with Leon Bailey from day one as his attitude around the group has been simply fantastic. He's definitely a team player and the group has embraced him very well. This was important given all the noise over the past few years around his selection to the national team,” the team’s head coach Theodore Whitmore told the Jamaica Observer.

Bailey was expected to make his debut for the national team in a friendly against the United States but did not play due to an injury.  According to Whitmore, however, the player is not ready to go.

“On the pitch, Leon has been sizzling. He is now fit and raring to go. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, he should line- up at the start of the game on Monday. We still have a few more sessions to go, but his production at all the sessions has been spot on,” Whitmore said.

“He is ready to make his international debut for Jamaica and will play with not only his talent but also his heart. This is what I sense in him since his arrival to the group… he's a really talented young man and very coachable.”

 

Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Alvin Jones, the player whose lethal long-range bullet led to the end of perennial powerhouses United States’ FIFA World Cup campaign, admits he is looking forward to a reunion in the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup.

T&T and the United States will face off in Group D of the tournament, which also includes Guyana and Panama.  The teams are set to face off at the FirstEnergy Stadium, in Cleveland on June 22.

Jones dramatically scored the first goal in a 2-1 win for T&T, which eliminated heavy favourites the United States from World Cup qualification.  The result sent shockwaves across the region and around the world.

“The last time we played the US we defeated them 2-1.  We have a better team at the moment.  We aren’t taking them lightly, we know they are home and it will be a very important game in the group stage.  For me personally, we take it game by game and when we reach the US we know it will be a challenging game.”

“We just have to take it game by game.  We just have to go for the win and I think six points is enough to go through.”

The United States are the competition’s defending champions.

 

Mexico's perfect record under Gerardo Martino continued with an entertaining 3-2 win over Ecuador in Texas on Sunday.

Ecuador had twice come from behind at AT&T Stadium, goals from Angel Mena and Ayrton Preciado cancelling out efforts from Jonathan dos Santos and Luis Montes.

But Mexico found a late winner in their final game before the CONCACAF Gold Cup, Luis Rodriguez's 77th-minute volley settling the encounter.

Ecuador were almost gifted a dream start, Mexico defender Rodriguez clearing a ball into his own post after goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa pushed away a cross from the right.

But that would be one of Ecuador's only chances in the first half as Mexico dominated.

Orbelin Pineda forced a save from Maximo Banguera after being played in by Dos Santos in the 18th minute, before later seeing a shot deflected wide.

Mexico continued to build into the encounter, Montes shooting over from range before Dos Santos' second international goal.

The LA Galaxy midfielder ran at the Ecuador defence before curling a beautiful effort from 25 yards into the bottom corner.

While Mexico went into the break ahead, their advantage disappeared just two minutes into the second half.

Mena, introduced at half-time, saw a 25-yard free-kick deflect off the wall, wrong-footing Ochoa and finding the back of the net.

Mexico restored their lead just after the hour-mark through Montes, who produced a moment of magic with a free-kick of his own.

After a clumsy handball led to the free-kick being awarded, Montes curled a strike over the wall and into the top corner from just outside the area.

However, Mexico's lead lasted just three minutes before Preciado headed in a Mena corner for his first international goal to bring Ecuador level once more.

The winner came through Rodriguez, who volleyed in Jesus Gallardo's delivery at the back post with his maiden strike at international level.

What does it mean? Mexico show why they are Gold Cup favourites

This win made it four from four for Martino since he took charge of Mexico in January. The victory over Ecuador added to wins against Chile, Paraguay and Venezuela, showing why Mexico go into the Gold Cup as favourites.

Dos Santos finds goal-scoring form for Mexico

It took Dos Santos 40 games to score his first international goal, but his effort against Ecuador marked his second in as many Mexico outings. It was a fine strike from distance, adding another element to Mexico that Martino will surely find useful in the future.

More injury woes for Mexico

Just days after Edson Alvarez was hurt against Venezuela, there was another injury worry for Mexico. Hector Moreno came off in the first half with a suspected muscle injury, adding another unwanted concern for Martino.

What's next?

Mexico begin their Gold Cup campaign against Cuba on Saturday, while Ecuador face Uruguay in their Copa America opener on June 16.

Former England youth international Ravel Morrison was surprisingly left out of Jamaica's 23-member squad for the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup from June 15 to July 7.

The 26-year-old midfielder was named in a preliminary 40-man squad last month after getting his Jamaican passport.

Morrison who qualifies to play for Jamaica through his mother was strongly touted as a future star for the Three Lions, but the former West Manchester United and Ham United player has failed to live up the confidence placed in him. He is currently playing for Ostersunds in Sweden.

As expected, Leon Bailey of Bayer Leverkusen is in the final 23-member squad. The 21-year-old winger has over the years rejected offers to play for his country, but had accepted the offer for the friendly international against the USA earlier this week. However, he did not make his debut in the match, which the Reggae Boyz won 1-0 in Washington.

The squad includes only four local-based players in midfielders Andre Lewis, Ricardo Morris and Tyreek Magee and goalkeeper Amal Knight.

Jamaica's Reggae Boyz have been drawn in Group C of the Gold Cup with Honduras, El Salvador and Curacao.

The Concacaf Gold Cup will be played in the Caribbean for the first time as a group-stage doubleheader takes place on June 17 in Jamaica at the National Stadium, the day when the Reggae Boyz will open their campaign.

The opening match at the National Stadium on June 17 will feature a clash between Curacao and El Salvador at 6:00 pm while Jamaica will go up against Honduras in an 8:00 pm encounter.

Jamaica's Reggae Boyz have played in the final twice. In 2015, the Reggae Boyz lost 3-1 against Mexico, while in 2017 they were beaten 2-1 by the United States.

Chile scored two goals in as many minutes to overcome minnows Haiti 2-1 in their pre-Copa America friendly on Thursday.

Quick-fire goals from Eduardo Vargas and Jose Fuenzalida in the second half spared Chile's blushes before La Roja fly out to Brazil to begin their title defence.

Playing their final warm-up match before the country's Copa America opener against guests Japan on June 17, Chile dominated but trailed at half-time.

CONCACAF Gold Cup participants Haiti – who were invited to take part in the Centenario edition in 2016 – silenced the crowd in La Serena when Frantzdy Pierrot outmuscled two opponents and poked the ball past Brayan Cortes in the 26th minute.

Arturo Vidal and Vargas threatened for Chile in the absence of Manchester United star Alexis Sanchez but the hosts were unable to find the back of the net.

Chile continued to push forward and after numerous opportunities, the two-time reigning South American champions equalised via Vargas with 21 minutes remaining.

And fans barely finished celebrating Chile's leveller when Fuenzalida bundled home the eventual winner after Vargas' initial shot was blocked.

 

Rising Bundesliga talent Leon Bailey has expectably been named as part of a 23-man squad for this month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.

After months of speculation, the 21-year-old failed to make an expected debut for the national team in friendly international against the United States earlier this week.  The winger, however, is on course to make an appearance against Honduras at Jamaica’s National Stadium on July 17.

Bailey will be joined in the squad by seasoned campaigners Alvas Powell, Darren Mattocks and Je-Vaughn Watson with outstanding goalkeeper Andre Blake tasked to lead from the back.  Damion Lowe, some of the former national player Onandi Lowe, has also been included along with promising youngers Peter Lee Vassell and Tyreek Magee.

The Jamaicans have been placed in group C of the tournament alongside Honduras, El Salvador and Curacao.  The team will begin the tournament on June 17 with a match against Honduras.

Jamaica Gold Cup squad

Goalkeeper ANDRE BLAKE

PHILADELPHIA UNION (USA)

Defender JAMOI TOPEY

BETHLEHEM STEEL FC (USA)

Defender MICHAEL HECTOR

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY FC (England)

Midfielder ANDRE LEWIS

PORTMORE UNITED FC (Jamaica)

Defender ALVAS POWELL

FC CINNCINATI (USA)

Forward DEVER ORGILL

MKE ANKARAGUCU SK (Turkey)

DEVER AKEEM

Forward LEON BAILEY

BAYER 04 LEVERKUSEN

(Germany)

Forward MAALIQUE FOSTER

RIO GRANDE VALLEY FC (USA)

Midfielder RICARDO MORRIS

PORTMORE UNITED FC (Jamaica)

Forward DARREN MATTOCKS

FC CINNCINATI (USA)

Forward SHAMAR NICHOLSON

NK DOMZALE (Slovenia)

Forward JUNIOR FLEMMINGS

PHOENIX RISING FC (USA)

Goalkeeper DWAYNE MILLER

SYRIANSKA FC (Sweden)

Defender SHAUN FRANCIS

LOUISVILLE FC (USA)

Midfielder JE-VAUGHN WATSON

OKC ENERGY (USA)

Forward PETER LEE VASSELL

LA FC (USA)

Defender DAMION LOWE

IK START (Norway)

Forward

BRIAN BROWN

RENO 1868 FC (USA)

Midfielder TYREEK MAGEE

HARBOUR VIEW FC (Jamaica)

Defender KEMAR LAWRENCE

NY RED BULLS (USA)

Midfielder KEVON LAMBERT

PHOENIX RISING FC (USA)

Midfielder DEVON WILLIAMS

LOUISVILLE FC (USA)

Goalkeeper AMAL KNIGHT

UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST

Edson Alvarez has made the cut for Mexico's 23-man Gold Cup squad despite sustaining a leg injury in the warm-up win over Venezuela.

Club America midfielder Alvarez, a rumoured target for Scottish champions Celtic, had to be substituted during the first half of the 3-1 victory at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and will be monitored closely as the tournament opener draws near.

Gerardo Martino has until 24 hours before the June 15 fixture against Cuba in California to decide whether to replace the 21-year-old, who has also been linked to Premier League side Wolves.

LA Galaxy's Uriel Antuna will be called into the squad if Alvarez fails to prove his fitness.

Head coach Martino, victorious in each of his three matches since taking charge, is already without star winger Hirving Lozano due to a knee injury.

West Ham striker Javier Hernandez, Porto midfielder Hector Herrera and LAFC forward Carlos Vela all ruled themselves out of contention.

Mexico, who face Ecuador in their final pre-tournament friendly this weekend, finished third in 2017 after winning three of the previous four editions.

Canada and Martinique are their other opponents in Group A.

Mexico squad in full:

Hugo Gonzalez (Necaxa), Guillermo Ochoa (Standard Liege), Jonathan Orozco (Santos Laguna); Nestor Araujo (Celta Vigo), Jesus Gallardo (Monterrey), Cesar Montes (Monterrey), Hector Moreno (Real Sociedad), Fernando Navarro (Leon), Diego Reyes (Leganes), Luis Rodriguez (Tigres), Carlos Salcedo (Tigres), Jorge Sanchez (Club America); Edson Alvarez (Club America), Jonathon dos Santos (LA Galaxy), Andres Guardado (Real Betis), Erick Gutierrez (PSV), Luis Montes (Leon), Oberlin Pineda (Cruz Azul), Carlos Rodriguez (Monterrey); Roberto Alvarado (Cruz Azul), Raul Jimenez (Wolves), Rodolfo Pizarro (Monterrey), Alexis Vaga (Guadalajara)

Mexico continued their winning record under Gerardo Martino, but a 3-1 victory over Venezuela was soured by an injury to Edson Alvarez.

Alvarez came off in the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, where Mexico continued preparations for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

After Jhon Murillo put Venezuela ahead, Mexico were dominant for the most part, deservedly equalising through Roberto Alvarado.

Rodolfo Pizarro and Andres Guardado struck after half-time as Mexico made it three from three since Martino took charge in January.

While Mexico put Venezuela under enormous pressure early, they fell behind in the 18th minute.

Murillo's effort from the right, which appeared to be a cross, flew over Mexico goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco and in via the underside of the crossbar.

Mexico almost responded immediately through Alvarado, who poked wide at an open goal after confusion at the back for Venezuela.

Alvarado was a constant threat, also firing wide in the 25th minute, before he deservedly equalised just after the half-hour mark.

A cross from the right went uncleared and Pizarro managed a touch into the path of Alvarado, who blasted in from close range for his first international goal.

However, Venezuela almost restored their lead on the stroke of half-time, but Yordan Osorio's header from a corner hit the post.

Mexico went ahead nine minutes into the second half, Jesus Gallardo picking out Pizarro from the left to tap in.

Only a brilliant close-range save from Venezuela goalkeeper Wuilker Farinez denied Raul Jimenez after the hour-mark, but Guardado made no mistake with his chance in the 76th minute.

Introduced off the bench, the midfielder drilled a low finish into the bottom corner from inside the area to seal the win.

 

What does it mean? Mexico show off depth

While extending their winning streak under Martino, Mexico also showcased their depth ahead of the Gold Cup. Having started a relatively inexperienced line-up, Martino would have been pleased with what he saw in what was a strong performance.

Alvarado and Pizarro impress

Alvarado, the 20-year-old once linked with Manchester United, scored his first international goal and was a constant threat for Mexico. Pizarro, meanwhile, finished with an assist and his fourth goal at international level.

Alvarez injury a worry

Alvarez's suspected leg injury is a concern for Mexico. The defensive midfielder came off in the first half after being on the receiving end of a late challenge and Martino will be hopeful the blow is nothing serious.

What's next?

Mexico's final friendly before the Gold Cup is against Ecuador on Sunday, while Venezuela will face the United States on the same day as they continue preparations for the Copa America.

Shamar Nicholson's long-range stunner saw Jamaica upstage the United States 1-0 ahead of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

In a rematch of the 2017 Gold Cup final won by USA, Jamaica emerged triumphant courtesy of Nicholson's first international goal at Audi Field on Wednesday.

Nicholson came off the bench and beat Zack Steffen with a memorable strike from outside the penalty area in Washington as both teams stepped up their preparations for the upcoming tournament.

Playing without Chelsea-bound star Christian Pulisic as head coach Gregg Berhalter gave players a chance to stake their Gold Cup claims, USA made a strong start but struggled afterwards.

USA put Jamaica, who had Bayer Leverkusen star Leon Bailey among the substitutes, on the backfoot during the early exchanges – the hosts enjoying success down the right side.

However, Jamaica eventually settled into their rhythm as the half petered out, with neither team creating any clear-cut chances.

Jamaica looked the more likely to score as the match wore on after Peter-Lee Vassell almost broke the deadlock with a curling effort in the 56th minute.

But Jamaica got the goal they deserved thanks to substitute Nicholson in memorable fashion four minutes later.

Nicholson cut inside and back out again before firing a stunning long-range shot past Steffen, who is set to join Manchester City before reportedly heading to Fortuna Dusseldorf on loan.

 

What does it mean? Unbeaten run over

USA's undefeated streak under Berhalter came to a halt. After wins against Panama, Costa Rica and Ecuador, and a draw with Chile, Jamaica stopped the run. Fortunately for Berhalter and USA, it comes prior to the Gold Cup.

Relax… Berhalter experimenting

USA fans, it is not so bad. While a loss is unwanted, it comes as Berhalter experimented with his starting line-up ahead of the midnight deadline for the Gold Cup roster. He will have a clearer picture of who to include in the 23-man squad.

Lack of ideas

While it was a chance to try new things, the manner in which USA faded would have frustrated Berhalter. After an impressive and high-octane start, the home nation were outplayed and struggled to keep up with Jamaica at times.

What's next?

USA will conclude their Gold Cup preparations against Venezuela on Sunday before the country's tournament opener against Guyana on June 18. Meanwhile, Jamaica will next play Honduras on June 17 – their first match of the Gold Cup.

Jamaica national men’s football team coach Theodore Whitmore believes a strong start against CONCACAF rivals on home soil could go a long way in determining how well the squad does in the upcoming edition of the Gold Cup.

This time around and for the first time in the tournament’s history, there will be matches held on Caribbean soil.  Jamaica will host El Salvador, Honduras and Curacao in Group C and Whitmore is eager to take advantage of the home turf.  While regarding El Salvador and Curacao as familiar opponents, the Reggae Boyz coach regards Honduras as more of an x-factor.

“We are looking forward to it. The only difference in our group is Honduras. We know the El Salvador team, we know the Curacao team, we have the Honduras team to play at home and we are looking forward to that game. A positive result in that game should set us on our way into the El Salvador and Curacao games,” Whitmore said in an interview with CONCACAF.com.

The Reggae Boyz have reached the final of the competition in the last two editions, where they lost to the region’s top teams Mexico and the United States.  The Caribbean team will be hoping to make a third trip this year, perhaps this time hoping to do one better.

“Nothing is impossible. We just have to work hard and make sure we get in a decent preparation and then in the tournament, we’ll see what we can do,” said Whitmore.

Former Manchester United youth standout Ravel Morrison has been named in a 40-man provisional Jamaica national team squad for the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Once considered one of England’s brightest prospects, the 26-year-old Morrison now plies his trade for Swedish club Östersund after stints in Italy and Mexico.  The player, who is of Jamaican heritage, has been on the radar of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) for quite some time but is yet to make an appearance for the national team.

The player has been invited to appear for the team on prior occasions but has been hampered by various issues.  Morrison has, however, recently received his Jamaican passport and previously travelled to the island for the Reggae Boyz' game against Antigua and Barbuda in March last year.

The roster of 40 will also include the likes of Daniel Johnson of English Championship club Preston North End, Adrian Mariappa of beaten FA Cup finalist Watford and Michael Hector (Sheffield Wednesday).  Former national U-20 player Rashawn Dally of FC Cincinnati in the MLS and defender Jordan Scarlett of the New York Red Bulls USL team are a group of US-based players which also includes Jamoi Topey (Bethlehem Steel), Darren Mattocks & Alvas Powell (FC Cincinnati), Damion Lowe (IK Start), Dever Orgill (MKE Ankaragücü) and Peter-Lee Vassell (LAFC).  Bayer Munich standout Leon Bailey is also expected to accept an invitation to join the team.

A power struggle for leadership of Venezuela that threatens to further destabilize the country has impacted the Gold Cup preparations of Trinidad and Tobago.

T&T were to have played in a friendly against the rising South American footballing power in a friendly on May 29 in Caracas that would have served as part of the twin-island republic’s preparation for the June 15 - July 7 CONCACAF flagship event.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó on April 30 had led a failed military uprising in a bid to oust Nicolás Maduro.

On Saturday Guaidó said he's instructed his political envoy in Washington to immediately open relations with the U.S. military in a bid to bring more pressure on President Maduro to resign.

A once-wealthy oil nation, Venezuela has sunk into economic and social collapse marked by soaring inflation and a scarcity of basic goods that has sent an estimated 3.7 million of its citizens to emigrate.

Fortunately for the Soca Warriors, the game was just one of two friendlies, with the integrity of a game against Japan in Osaka on June 5 still in tact.

Trinidad and Tobago are in Group D of the Gold Cup’s preliminary round and take on Panama first up, before the United States and first-time qualifiers, Guyana.

They're destined to be teammates at the CONCACAF Gold Cup in around a months’ time but New York Red Bulls left back Kemar Lawrence insists that the battle with Cincinnati FC forward Darren Mattocks will be a fierce one for pride when the two meet in Saturday’s MLS encounter.

The 26-year-old defender, formerly a staple in the Red Bulls line-up, has been eased back into action after suffering an MCL injury.  The defender also missed the last two games with an illness.  Having moved to Cincinnati from DC United in the summer Mattocks has begun life slowly at his new club, coming off the substitute’s bench in FC Cincy’s first three games - picking up an assist, but failing to register a start in those combined 106 minutes.  Since making his first start in March, however, Mattocks has scored one goal.

 “When we meet, it’s something more personal. It’s kind of a bragging rights thing,” Lawrence said.

 “When we get to national team camp, you want to say you beat that Darren Mattocks, Alvas Powell, [Andre] Blake, whoever it is you’re facing on the day. You need those bragging rights before you get to camp,” he added.

 “You’re going to get that guy who is going to try his best to score, he’s going to always be running, always be pressuring the defenders.”

 

Jamaica will be the first country to host a Gold Cup match outside of  North America in the upcoming tournament.  CONCACAF Chief Football Officer Manuel Zubiria explains the idea behind a bigger, wider tournament.

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