Soccer Free Picks: Jamaica and Canada Square Off in CONCACAF Quarterfinal Match-up
In the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, Jamaica was the surprise team of the tournament, making it all the way to the finals before bowing meekly to Mexico 3-1. This time around they’re determined to prove that it was no fluke as they take on a rejuvenated Canadian side.
Team Canada’s soccer program has been in poor shape for a long time, constantly flaming out in the early phases of World Cup qualifying. They also haven’t even made it to the quarterfinals of this tournament since 2009, failing to emerge from the group stage in their last three attempts. In fact, they have just one combined win from 2011 through 2015. So what a sigh of relief it must be for the program to be back in the knockout stage with a team of young guns that is looking poised to do some damage.
It doesn’t get any younger than 16-year old Alphonso Davies who scored three of Canada’s five goals in the group stage to tie for the Gold Cup lead in scoring. He didn’t start the final game with Honduras after suffering a minor injury. Canada was in the toughest group of the competition and they managed a tie with one of the heavyweights from Costa Rica in the opening match and a tie with a strong Honduras team in the closer to lock down second place in the group. In between they beat French Guiana handily.
Davies is part of a youth contingent that also includes Mark Anthony-Kaye, Samuel Piette and Michael Petrasso. To that squad the Canadian team has called up reinforcements in the form of Cyle Larin. He was the first overall pick in the 2015 draft and broke the rookie record with 17 goals scored that season. The striker then scored 14 last year and already has eight this year.
He’s one of ten Canadians playing in MLS, but was left off the original squad following a DUI arrest earlier in the summer.
Jamaica finished second behind Mexico in their group, but the team was not happy with its overall performance. That’s especially true after their final game a 1-1 draw with an inferior El Salvador team on Sunday. What they have going for them is probably the best goalie in the tournament in Andre Blake. He’s allowed just one goal in three games and has looked very sharp.
Jamaica has nine players currently suiting up with MLS teams including Darren Mattocks who’s scored two of their three goals.
Cash It In: Canada are slight favorites at +160 and Jamaica are the underdogs at +195. That tight spread is indicative of the fact that this will likely be the most closely fought game of the quarterfinals. The momentum Canada generated in the group stage will be put to the test, but I like their chances to move on. Canada 1-0.
Soccer Expert Picks: Canada +160 & Under 1½