Jose Miguel Saraiva gives us his U-23 Team of the recently concluded CONCACAF Gold Cup featuring the likes of Edson Álvarez and Jordan Morris.
The CONCACAF Gold Cup 2017, won by the USA national team, was an excellent opportunity for promising young players to stand out and reveal their talent to whole world. This U23 Team of the Tournament includes the best young players of the tournament, which was undoubtedly very competitive and somewhat surprising, given the presence of Jamaica in the final, versus the USA.
It is important to state that many others young players performed at a very good level and showed an immense value, players like Paul Arriola (21) or Kellyn Acosta (22) from the USA, or even Ismael Díaz (20) from Panama, or Erick Gutiérrez (22) from Mexico. Kevin Lambert (20) from Jamaica, was also a delightful revelation of the Gold Cup. I believe that even though they are not present in this team, they at least deserve being mentioned.
Luis López | Honduras | 23 | Goalkeeeper: The Honduran goalkeeper was one of the reasons why the Honduran national team was the team that conceded the least goals in the whole of the Gold Cup. Of course, one may argue that they only played 4 matches, but Honduras showed great defensive consistency and efficacy and Luis López played a key role in the Honduran defensive strategy. The Real España player performed at a good level and led Honduras’ defence conceding only against two powerful teams, Mexico and Costa Rica.
Alvas Powell | Jamaica | 22 | Right Back: This Jamaican right-back was probably one of the players that most stood out in the Gold Cup. Defensively, Powell was always very solid and competent. Offensively, he performed amazingly, making use of his pace to help the Jamaican attack. We’ll be hearing a lot about Alvas Powell soon, I trust.
Edson Álvarez | Mexico | 19 | Centre Back: This young Mexican defender played in every match of this Gold Cup for Mexico, 4 of them in the starting XI. Being only 19 years old, Álvarez showed great consistency and maturity, even scoring 1 goal against Curacao, as well as an evident capacity to play in various positions, such as Full-Back, Centre-Back and Defensive Midfielder, for example. The Mexican player is one of his national team’s most promising talents and although Mexico didn’t achieve as much as they could in this Gold Cup, Edson Álvarez’s contribution was noteworthy.
Matt Miazga | USA | 22 | Centre Back: The young American centre-back played only one match in the Gold Cup but showed why he is considered one of the most promising talents of this American national team. Although having to compete with the experienced Matt Besler and Omar González for a spot in the starting XI, Chelsea’s young centre-back was very secure and competent in the only match he played, against the Nicaragua national team, managing to even score a goal.
He certainly showed his quality in the only opportunity he had, which can lead to him being granted a place in the starting XI in the future. Chelsea has a true star on their hands and the USA national team has got a very good player for the next 10-12 years.
Kemar Lawrence | Jamaica | 24 | Left Back: Even though this is a U23 Team, Kemar Lawrence is worthy of an exception. He is 24 years old but his excellent performances earned him a place. The New York Red Bulls full-back was really consistent throughout the whole tournament and played a key role in the semi-finals, having scored the only Jamaican goal against Mexico by perfectly executing a free-kick in the last minutes of the match. In the final, where Jamaica lost against the USA, Kemar Lawrence made the assist to the only Jamaican goal, scored by Je-Vaughn Watson. Strong, fast and virtuous perfectly describe Kemar’s style of play.
Alphonso Davies | Canada | 16 | Right Wing: The Canadian player that most caught one’s attention was undoubtedly the youngster Alphonso Davies, a winger that showed an unremarkable talent, having scored a total of 3 goals in 4 matches, 2 of which against the French Guiana. The Canadian winger was a mischievous puzzle to the opposition defences and that explains the fact that a team like the Canadian one, that doesn’t have a rich football tradition, scored a total of 6 goals in 4 matches.
The 16-year-old winger lead Canada’s attack, always getting forward, breaching the opposition’s defence and being a crucial factor in the side’s approach, having teamed up greatly with the other Canadian winger Hoillett.
The young Canadian left-winger became the top scorer of the Canadian team and of the Gold Cup itself (along with Martinique’s Parsemain and USA’s Jordan Morris) with 3 goals and despite coming from a nation that doesn’t stand out much in the football universe, is a very promising player and the world will certainly hear about this young footballer very soon.
Rodolfo Pizarro | Mexico | 23 | Central Midfield: The Mexican centre-midfielder was one of the key elements of the Mexican national team and his performances were undoubtedly very positive and very attractive. The Chivas Guadalajara star amazed every spectator with his amazing technical skills, his geniality with the ball and his ability to correctly define the offensive manoeuvres of Mexico, having scored 1 goal in 4 matches in the Gold Cup. Being only 23 years old, Rodolfo Pizarro certainly has lots of time to improve certain aspects of his game, like his defensive behaviour and positioning, and I won’t be amazed if I see him move to a European big team in the near future.
Orbelín Pineda | Mexico | 21 | Central Midfield: This Mexican midfielder is a more complete player than, for example, Rodolfo Pizarro, as he is a very competent player in defensive situations as well as in offensive ones. He is a very intense and fast player, and makes an impact in the midfield with his aggression and technical capacity. He often participates in attacking situations and is able to disrupt the opposite defence’s organisation, due to his ability to be very fast with the ball without losing control of it. He was also an essential player for the Mexican team and, to my mind, was one of the best players in the tournament. One needs to look beyond the brilliant dribbles or the goals scored, because the true things that matter, especially for a centre-midfielder, is the dynamics he offers to the team, the balance he is able to impose and how trustworthy he is in compensating other players that have moved up in the field to attack, to organise the offensive transitions, and many other situations. Pineda was absolutely essential to Mexico and is one of the most promising Mexican players, if not the most promising.
Jesus Gallardo | Mexico | 21 | Left Wing: Jesus Gallardo is a Mexican winger who stood out in the Gold Cup, having played 5 matches. This place could have belonged to either Ismael Díaz (Panama) or even Erick Gutiérrez (Mexico), but none of these players, despite having stood out as well, was as determining and brilliant as Gallardo. Gifted with an outstanding left foot, either playing as left-winger or even left-back, he also performs amazingly, evidencing three main characteristics: intensity, pace and physical strength. Although being very good technically, I believe he stands out mainly because of his pace, which makes him a very dangerous player to the opposite team, as well as the intensity he imposes throughout the whole 90 minutes, which is also proof of a great deal of physical strength as well as physical capacity, meaning resistance. That allows him to be both dangerous and intense during the whole game. Mexico definitely has some amazing young players and Jesus Gallardo is one of the main promises.
Jordan Morris | USA | 22 | Striker: I believe it would be indecent to leave out Jordan Morris from this team. Although not being the most influential player of the USA, for he is not mainly responsible for the dynamics or the construction of the team’s game. Also due to his position, Jordan Morris is the player that somehow most deserves a spot in this team, for four main reasons: Firstly, competing for a starting spot with a player like Jozy Altidore and achieving it, leading the American coach to play with two forwards, is not for everyone; secondly, he was the player with the best scoring average of this Gold Cup edition, with an average of 0.5 goals per match, considering only players that played 5 or more matches; thirdly, he was the best scorer of the competition, along with Parsemain and Alphonso Davies, having scored 3 goals; finally, he was the player who scored the goal that secured victory for the USA against Jamaica in the final. He was probably the best and most determining player of the tournament and he is likely to have secured a starting spot for years to come.
Romario Williams | Jamaica | 22 | Striker: The Jamaican forward was a regular presence in the Jaimaca’s starting XI during the Gold Cup and in 6 matches, scored 2 goals. Although one may state that he could’ve done some more for the Jamaican national team in this tournament, he sure showed some strong qualities and demonstrated his tremendous value. Along with the other Jamaican forward Darren Mattocks, Romario was mainly responsible for the presence of Jamaica in the final of the Gold Cup and the outstanding performance of the Jamaican national team in the tournament.
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