Los Angeles Soccer: Noel Valladares
Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez's tournament-best sixth goal, a nifty little backheel in the 66th minute, sent El Tri to a 2-1 triumph over surprising Guatemala. The Chapines scored early and bunkered in, but they couldn't keep Mexico's high-power attack dormant beyond halftime in front of 78,807 in East Rutherford, N.J.
Honduras prevailed in the best game so far in the Gold Cup, clipping fellow Central American giant Costa Rica on penalties after a 1-1 draw. Real Salt Lake's Alvaro Saborio takes the brunt of blame for the Ticos after missing a second-half spot kick and again in the tiebreaker.
A quick look at the 14th day in the region's championship:
CHICHARITO, OF COURSE: Hernandez, the Manchester United star who just turned 23, is CONCACAF's biggest star and best player, and his cheeky winner was his 20th goal in just 27 international matches.
Former Galaxy striker Carlos Ruiz, now with the Philadelphia Union, gave Guatemala a fifth-minute lead, but the Chapines' defensive tactics couldn't close off the Mexicans, who dominated most of the action to advance to Wednesday's semifinals in Houston against Honduras.
Ruiz volleyed over goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera as he fell at the top of the box, a superb use of his body to place the ball inside the right post after beating Rafa Marquez to a long ball into the box.
Aldo de Nigris, a halftime substitute, scored the equalizer less than three minutes into the second half, slipping home a rebound after goalkeeper Ricardo Jerez rejected Hector Moreno's header and defender Carlos Gallardo swept Moreno's follow-up off the goal line.
COSTA RICA SPOT OFF: Honduras reached the final four primarily because its exactness at the penalty spot couldn't be matched by Costa Rica. The Catrachos weathered one penalty kick in regulation and prevailed on the PK shootout at the end when their Central American rival twice struck the crossbar.
Jamaica finished a perfect run through Group B, notching its third shutout in a showdown Monday night with Honduras, and Guatemala romped to claim one of two third-place berths in the CONCACAF Gold Cup's quarterfinals.
San Jose Earthquakes forward Ryan Johnson scored the lone goal in Jamaica's triumph, which also sent the Hondurans to the knockout stage, where they will meet the other Central American power, Costa Rica, in Saturday's quarterfinal opener in East Rutherford, N.J.
Jamaica will face the No. 2 team from Group C in Sunday's quarterfinal doubleheader in Washington. The likeliest foe: United States.
Chicago Fire midfielder Marco Pappa scored one goal and set up another to lead Guatemala to a 4-0 rout of Grenada in the opener at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.
A quick look at the ninth day of group play in the region's nations championship:
ROCKSTEADY REGGAE BOYZ: Jamaica followed shutout victories over Grenada and Guatemala with a 1-0 triumph over the Hondurans, who started just four first-choice players from last year's World Cup squad and lost star forward Carlo Costly to a rib injury midway through the first half.
The group title is another achievement for the Reggae Boyz, who failed to reach the final round of qualifying for last year's World Cup, then bounced back to win the Caribbean Championship in January. Outsiders when the tournament began, they'll likely enter the knockout phase as the Gold Cup's No. 2 team, trailing only Mexico on goal difference.
Johnson netted his second goal of the tournament on a wild sequence in the 36th minute. His blast caromed down off the crossbar, smacked Catrachos goalkeeper Noel Valladares in the back of the head, and the ball bounced into the net.
There's one early-stage CONCACAF Gold Cup doubleheader slated for the these parts, and now we know who's coming.
CONCACAF released all 12 rosters Monday for its nations championship, which begins June 5 and ends with the final -- U.S.-Mexico is hoped for, certainly -- on June 25 at the Rose Bowl.
A Group B twinbill is coming to Home Depot Center on Monday, June 6, with a Caribbean showdown (Jamaica vs. Grenada) at 6 p.m. and a Central American matchup (Honduras vs. Guatemala) at 8.
Honduras' roster features a dozen players from last year's World Cup team, including four who played every minute for the Catrachos (goalkeeper Noel Valladares, defenders Osman Chavez and Maynor Figueroa, and midfielder Wilson Palacios), plus Sporting Kansas City left back Roger Espinoza, who was raised in Denver, and former Chivas USA midfielder Ramon Nuņez.
Guatemala is led by former Galaxy star Carlos Ruiz, now in Philadelphia, and Chicago Fire midfielder Marco Pappa.
The Jamaicans have eight MLS players, including Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and former Galaxy defender Tyrone Marshall, and 11 based in Europe, nine of them in Sweden or Norway. Grenada has Brooklyn-raised New England Revolution midfielder Shalrie Joseph, who would have played in two World Cups already had he chosen to play for the U.S.