By The Rex Factor
When I moved to Costa Rica and got excited about watching and betting soccer, the biggest passion I had was watching the US National Team.
Obviously, that was the “gringo” in me coming out, but I truly wanted to immerse myself with the culture. Simply put, “Ticos” didn't care much for other sports back then. To be fair, there are dozens of friends of mine who now watch, root and bet on the NFL, NBA and baseball. Times are different. But in 2004, it was not that way.
It was hard for me to get involved or have a passion with club teams in 2004-05, despite the incredible UEFA Champions League finals in those years and the 100-to-1 Greece side beating host Portugal in the final of Euro 2004.
(Portugal's effort last year in an expanded 24 team Euro field was equally disgusting in the early rounds; they would have not qualified for the quarterfinals in prior tournaments, yet found a way to hoist the trophy).
The Greeks parked the bus in the knockout rounds of that '04 event, and pipped foes on the counter. They never allowed a goal in any of the three knockout games and were disinterested in doing anything other than advance – that mindset was one followed by Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto in the 2014 World Cup once the Ticos were able to advance as group winners by beating Uruguay and Italy and drawing England; they beat the aforementioned Greeks in the round of 16 in a lifeless 2-hour match after winning a penalty shootout – and then consequently losing to Holland after an equally boring match that went to penalties in the World Cup quarterfinals.
The 2003-04 Champions League final was contested by Monaco and Porto, two longshots, and Jose Mourhino's Porto lifted the cup, 3-0. The 04-05 final saw the most scintillating rally in soccer history, as Liverpool came from 3-0 back at halftime to stun AC Milan in a penalty shootout (3-3 after 120 minutes). I was hooked – despite taking a “tough beat” on Milan in that game.
Enough of the history lessons – the Gold Cup was something that happened every four years and could determine whether Mexico or the USA were the kings of the region. It's gone back and forth for a decade and the aforementioned Ticos have had their fun on the world stage, but there has been a CONCACAF/CONMEBOL tourney on US soil for three straight years and four of the last five.
Gold Cup 2013 and 2015, Copa America Centenario 2016, Gold Cup 2017 – all of which should elicit nothing more than a yawn at this point.
There was even a meaningless third-place game in 2015 between Panama and the United States.
Frankly, enough is finally enough.
The 2017 quarterfinals will start Wednesday, and Honduras will be one of the teams (with one-and-the-same Jorge Luis Pinto as the coach) involved. This, despite the Catratchos not scoring one goal in three group stage games and only progressing because French Guiana knowingly used an ineligible player in the second stage game and suffered a 3-0 forfeit loss in a game that ended 0-0.
The Mexicans participated in the Confederations Cup in Russia last month by earning their right to qualify after winning (*, yes that's an asterisk*) the 2015 Gold Cup and then beating the USA in a one-off game to punch their Russian trip. They're not fielding an A-side.
There are quarterfinals to be played and a cup is waiting to be lifted. The US plays El Salvador on Wednesday in Philly in the nightcap, right after Costa Rica battles rival and neighbor Panama. Those winners will meet in Saturday's semifinals in Arlington, Texas. Mexico plays Honduras while Jamaica battles Canada in quarterfinal action in Glendale, Ariz. Those winners will try to advance to the finals Sunday in a semifinal at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
The final is on July 26 in Santa Clara, Calif.
I used to be excited about it. Now, while I won't go as far as saying “good riddance”, I will go as far as saying that I no longer care. The USA promoted six of their better players that skipped the first round of games.
I still don't care.
There is no third-place game, which is a net win for all teams.
Enjoy the rest of the event, but I'm already working on the English Premier League and trying to rate those teams.
That's where I can make money for another year.
Not in this fiasco that they try to call a tournament.
With the Confederations Cup possibly a no-go in Qatar due to the odd World Cup 2022 cycle, this event could well fade into oblivion, also.