The Concacaf Nations League kicked into full gear over the last week with opening acts by Mexico, the U.S., Honduras, and Costa Rica. Everything went according to plan for the big boys in the region, with the lone exception of Costa Rica, who find themselves in a dogfight with Curaçao and Haiti.
There were plenty of other developments to digest from the last few days of play, and the latest edition of “Concaclusions” has you covered with four storylines that can’t be missed.
1. Mr. Showtime strikes again
We may have run out of adjectives for Grenada’s Jamal Charles at this point.
If there’s any player whose career deserves a boost from his performances at the tournament, it’s the 23-year-old St. Andrews native. Charles already had a pair of second-half game winners under his belt, but who’s to say that was enough? Make it three.
Grenada have simply found a way to grind out results time and time again. Thanks in large part to a healthy serving of Charles heroics, Grenada are sitting pretty at the top of League B, Group A with 10 points after four matches, five points clear of second-place French Guiana. It appears as if Charles may propel Grenada — a nation of just over 100,000 — all the way to League A promotion and a place at the next Gold Cup.
2. Curaçao continue to frustrate opponents
Keylor Navas single-handedly kept his side from falling to Haiti on Thursday, but a draw wasn’t necessarily a terrible result out of the gate for Costa Rica. However, it did leave them in need of a win over Curaçao to gain a grip on what they will feel is their rightful place at the top of the group.
On the other side, you have a Curaçao out to prove their Gold Cup run wasn’t a flash in the pan. At the time it looked like a rather poor result for the United States to scrape by Curaçao by a score of 1-0, but let’s take into consideration just how impressive they’ve been — particularly in defense — over the last several months.
Curacao have now beaten Honduras 1-0 at a neutral site, lost a very hard-fought 1-0 game to the US in the US, and drawn 0-0 at Costa Rica in the last 4 months.— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) October 14, 2019
With four points taken from their two encounters with Haiti, they were already in a solid position with Costa Rica joining the mix. The Ticos may have held the lion’s share of possession, but it was Curaçao who conjured up the better chances and rode the steady presence of Eloy Room between the sticks en route to a shutout.
“Getting a point away at Costa Rica…I think we can be happy with that,” Leandro Bacuna said after the game. “We stayed at the top of the league and we can make the job done at home.”
Bacuna’s men are officially in the driver’s seat with a three-point lead over the challengers.
3. Honduras make quick work of their group
Los Catrachos entered Nations League play in a rather enviable position. A pair of draws between Trinidad & Tobago and Martinique in the opening rounds set up Honduras with a much easier route to the knockout round, something they would have graciously taken following their disappointing Gold Cup.
Still, the work had to be done and it took the Central American side just two games to become the first team in the tournament to book their spot in the next stage of play. Their finishing on the day wasn’t anything to write home about in a 1-0 result, but Honduras certainly seem to be headed in the right direction.
Data ? | Honduras National Team— ?? (@TodosConLaH) October 14, 2019
The Honduras National Team ?? got his fifth consecutive victory: The five wins in a row:
4-0 against El Salvador ??
4-0 against Puerto Rico ??
2-1 against Chile ??
2-0 against Trinidad and Tobago ?? 1-0 against Martinique ?? pic.twitter.com/u9Rve2bXQS
4. Yannick Bellechase & Saint Martin hand the Cayman Islands a reality check
There was arguably no better story after two rounds of play than the hot start by the Cayman Islands. The minuscule nation brushed off an abysmal qualifying campaign — one point from four fixtures — and rode the contributions of their young attackers to get the better of both the U.S. Virgin Islands and Barbados to soar to the top of League C, Group A.
We’re fully aware at this point that Concacaf has a knack for producing unexpected results and individual performances, and the latest installment of came by way of Saint Martin’s 3-0 win over the Cayman Islands thanks to a Yannick Bellechasse. Luckily for the Turtles, they only have to wait three days to exact their revenge. They host Saint Martin on Tuesday in a chance to remain at the top of a competitive group.