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5 Young Players to Watch at the CONCACAF Gold Cup 2013

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5 Young Players to Watch at the CONCACAF Gold Cup 2013

5 Young Players to Watch at the CONCACAF Gold Cup 2013
Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

The final 23-player rosters have officially been finalized for the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup, which begins on July 7 with the first round of Group A matches in Pasadena. 12 teams from across North America, Central America and the Caribbean will compete for the chance to call themselves regional champions.

Mexico are the defending champs, having beaten the United States in the final in 2011, and will be hopeful of defending their trophy as one of three automatic qualifiers alongside the USMNT and Canada. There are also plenty of lesser-known nations competing including Belize, who will make their debut in the competition after finishing in fourth place in the Copa Centroamericana earlier this year.

With the chance to represent CONCACAF in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup at stake for the winner, subject to a playoff with the winner of the 2015 Gold Cup, there is plenty to play for and teams will be keen to put on a good showing in one of the most important events in the CONCACAF calendar.

This tournament will also be a good chance for several young players to show their abilities on the big stage, some for the first time in their careers. And with a number of countries choosing a good mix of youth and experience in their rosters, it is quite possible that new stars will be born in this year’s installment. Last time, then-23-year-old Javier Hernandez was the top scorer in the tournament with seven goals, while then-20-year-old Giovani dos Santos impressed in the 2009 edition and picked up the award for best player.

As such, let’s take a look at five young players who could make an enormous impact in the 2013 Gold Cup and who could be crucial for their respective countries’ success.

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Harold Cummings

Harold Cummings

With a level of experience at club and international level that belies his 21 years of age, Panama defender Harold Cummings will be crucial to his side’s success in a tough Group A alongside Mexico, Canada and Martinique. A physical presence at center-back for Panama and his club side Arabe Unido in Panama’s top division, Cummings made his debut as an 18-year-old against Trinidad and Tobago on September 7 2010.

He was then selected for Panama’s 2011 Gold Cup squad and made his only appearance in their 3-2 win over Guadeloupe as an 82nd-minute substitute. However, the experience of being part of the roster that made it to the semifinals, having topped a group that included the United States and Canada, will stand him in good stead.

As a player, Cummings is very comfortable on the ball and exhibits a good range of passing. He is also solid in the tackle and works hard to get back for any last-ditch interceptions while also being strong aerially. If he is on form, Panama’s defense will be in very good shape indeed.

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Kervens Belfort

Kervens Belfort

Another 21-year-old who has the ability to make a big impression is Kervens Belfort of Haiti, a striker who has already shone at international level for the Haitians. He plays his club soccer for Le Mans in France’s Ligue 2, and while he did not score in 16 appearances this season, Belfort will be looking to rediscover the form that saw him score five goals in his 29 appearances in the 2011-12 season.

At international level, Belfort has already made 11 appearances and scored five goals, including two in their recent CONCACAF World Cup qualifying campaign, which ended in the second round as Haiti finished second in Group F.

Belfort has the pace to trouble any defenders in the Gold Cup, and in a group that contains El Salvador, Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago, he will be hopeful of helping Haiti spring a surprise.

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Yeltsin Tejeda

Yeltsin Tejeda
Byron Hetzler-US PRESSWIRE

Costa Rica will fancy their chances of qualifying from Group C, coming up against the United States, Cuba and tournament debutants Belize, and one player who will have a tremendous impact is midfielder Yeltsin Tejeda.

Despite being only 21, Tejeda has appeared in 74 games for club side Deportivo Saprissa, starting 72 of those matches for the Costa Rican giants. As a defensive midfielder, Tejeda is crucial in breaking up opposition attacks, and already has the ability to govern the center of the park despite his tender age.

Tejeda is another player who has had plenty of experience at international level, helping Costa Rica reach the Championship round of the 2009 CONCACAF U-17 Championship before the tournament was cancelled due to an outbreak of swine flu. He also made an impact in the 2011 CONCACAF U-20 Championship, starting all five games as the Costa Ricans made the final only to be beaten by Mexico.

The midfielder is highly experienced despite his young age, so could find himself once again charged with running the Costa Rican midfield in this Gold Cup.

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Jack McInerney

Jack McInerney
Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

Referred to as “The American Chicharito”, the time is now for Philadelphia Union Jack McInerney to show what he can do on the international stage, having impressed already this season in MLS. Already, he has scored 10 goals in 16 games for the Union as they sit second in the Eastern Conference, earning rave reviews for what has been a breakout season.

McInerney also has plenty of experience at youth international level, in particular at the Under-17 age group where he scored 11 goals in 15 appearances. This included two goals at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in 2009, in which the United States reached the Round of 16.

His selection to the USMNT Gold Cup roster represents McInerney’s first call-up to the senior side, but even in a squad that contains the experience of Chris Wondolowski and Landon Donovan returning from his self-imposed international exile, the Union striker will be one to look out for. His pace, trickery and finishing ability will all be crucial to the success of the hosts.

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Jonathan Osorio

Jonathan Osorio
Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

Representing one of the tournament’s automatic qualifiers, midfielder Jonathan Osorio will be hoping to take his good form in this season’s MLS into the Gold Cup for his native Canada.

The midfielder has had a meteoric rise in professional soccer, having only begun training with the Toronto FC Academy in September 2012 and only being invited to train with the first team during the last preseason. Since then, he has taken his chance well to play 14 games and start four of them, scoring three times, including a very impressive chip against the New York Red Bulls.

Osorio also has had some international experience with Canada, making his debut for the senior team on May 28 in the team’s 1-0 defeat by Costa Rica in an international friendly. He was also part of the Canada roster that played in the 2011 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship, making appearances in all three of their games as they lost in the quarterfinals to eventual champions Mexico.

Osorio has the ability to become a superstar in Canadian soccer, and as one of seven players in the roster with MLS experience, he will be hopeful of having a big impact in the country where he plays his club soccer.