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2015 Gold Cup - Day Eight Review & Day Nine Preview

Waking the Red recaps all the action from the eighth day of the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup and looks ahead to Day Nine

The rains came; the goals did not
The rains came; the goals did not
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Day Eight was a special one, as for the first time in its history, the Gold Cup would be played in Canada, with a single match-day set aside for Toronto, Ontario.

Group B was on the docket, playing its final group matches to determine who would join the USA and Haiti in the knockout rounds.

The group was finely balanced before the games began – the previous four matches had resulted in three draws, the only win coming the way of Jamaica, when they dispatched Canada by a 1-0 score-line.

As such, the Jamaicans topped the group on four points and a plus-one, while Costa Rica and El Salvador were level on two points each and zero goal-differentials. Canada needed a win or a prayer to progress with just a single point and a minus-one to their name.

The opening match saw the Jamaicans go up against the Salvadoreans in a close-fought encounter.

Both sides exchanged half-chances through the early stages, Pablo Punyed going over for El Salvador, while Rodolph Austin drove a low shot from distance wide.

Jamaica would be forced into two early changes: the first when Jermaine Taylor left after eight minutes and the second in the 22nd minute after goalkeeper, Dwayne Miller took a head-knock from the knee of Punyed. He was stretchered off, replaced by back-up Ryan Thompson.

The Reggae Boyz would nearly take the lead shortly thereafter, when a free-kick from Kemar Lawrence was pushed wide by the Salvadorean keeper, Derby Carrilo. The rebound fell to Adrian Mariappa on the right, who sent it trickling across the face of goal, foreshadowing the eventual breakthrough.

The half would close for a free-kick from Richard Menjivar on a tight angle to the left, but his attempt to find the far top-corner would be swatted away by Thompson.

Thompson would come up huge again for his side at the start of the second half with an excellent double save, denying a low Punyed effort from range before regaining his composure to save the follow up by Andres Flores at the right-post.

La Selecta vice captain, Arturo Alvarez would see a pair of attempts go wide of the right post. His free-kick was whisked agonizingly wide, while a further chance, moving across the top of the box from the right, dribbled similarly astray.

Jamaica would take the lead in the 71st minute on the counter with El Salvador pressing forward. A long ball forward up the right found Darren Mattocks, who played back to Jobi McAnuff. His shot was saved by Carrilo, but as before, the rebound was put into a playable space on the left, where Garath McCleary arrived on the back-side to tap into the gaping net.

The victory would not be an easy one. Already having forced to blow two early subs, Jamaica would be reduced to ten when Mattocks saw a second yellow for a late run-by on Alexander Larin. It was a soft call that left Mattocks incredulous, but regardless, the Jamaicans would have to survive the last ten minutes short-handed.

El Salvador would continue to press forward with the knowledge that a win would make their progression easier, the best look coming with a mad goal-mouth scramble in the waning minutes. A ball in from the left skimmed off a few players before falling to Dustin Corea on the right, his shot, however, was deflected into the outside-netting by some desperate defending.

With the 1-0 victory, Jamaica secured first place in the group with seven points, while El Salvador would have to await the result of the second match to learn their fate.

Moments before the evening match was about to begin, dark clouds loomed over the occasion, soaking the assembled fans in a showering of heavy rain; portents of that which would come.

It has been a difficult tournament for Canada, unpopular lineup choices and an inability to score goals has them set for an early exit. The same could be said for Costa Rica, who impressed so forcefully at the World Cup last summer, only to struggle with a group of CONCACAF opponents.

But given the result of the earlier match, Los Ticos knew that a single point would be enough to propel them past El Salvador and into the next round with a guaranteed spot. Canada, on the other hand, needed to win in order to extend their Gold Cup lives.

The Canadians found the first decent chance – a weak header from Julian de Guzman of all players, but it was caught and held by Esteban Alvarado with ease. And Costa Rica would have a look of their own when David Ramirez whisked a right-footer mercifully wide.

Les Rouges would find another few chances in a mild first half: a Maxim Tissot free-kick from deep on the right would sail over everybody, bouncing up on Alvarado to strike the outside of the back-post, while a Marcel de Jong throw was flicked by de Guzman into the path of Marcus Haber, who tried to force his left-footer through the legs of Alvarado. Alvarado made the save and Haber's follow-up was deflected out for a corner.

The half would close with Deyver Vega cutting in from the right to get off a shot. Kenny Stamatopoulos was equal to the task, getting just enough of the effort to tip it wide of the back-post.

The rains would return to soak the spectators once more; the half-time whistle would bring some relief.

The veteran Stamatopoulos has been Canada's best player this tournament, regularly stepping up to spare any blushes from the odd mistake – the Canadians have conceded just once and that was stoppage-time heart-breaker in the Houston heat.

He would be called upon twice more to preserve the hopes of his nation at the start of the second phase, staying big to deny an attempt from Johan Venegas, and then saving another Venegas attempt bound for the top right-corner of goal.

With the clock ticking down, Canada was desperate. And they thought they had found the needed strike when Haber was able to direct a late free-kick into the Costa Rican net, only for the offside flag to correctly rule it out. Heart-break indeed.

They would find one further chance on home soil, a goal-mouth scramble saw the ball ping-pong around the area, falling to Andre Hainault, who saw his goal-bound effort blocked on the line by Bryan Ruiz.

Canada retained possession in hopes of extending their participation, but an abrupt whistle ended those dreams, sending them crashing out of the Gold Cup in a disparaging manner, scoreless and with a second 0-0 result.

With a fourth draw in the group, Costa Rica earned the point they required to secure the second spot; they join Jamaica in moving on to the next round. El Salvador must watch the results from the final day of Group C to determine whether they will hold on to one of the third-placed spots. They currently rank below Panama, but have a one point and one goal lead on Guatemala; the Salvadoreans need Cuba to hold off the Guatemalans.

The group stage completes on Wednesday with the final round of matches in Group C, set to take place in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Trinidad and Tobago lead the group having won both their matches, sitting comfortably on a plus-four, while Mexico are on four points and a whopping plus-six, courtesy that heavy win over a short-handed Cuban side. Guatemala collected a precious point via a scoreless draw last match-day against Mexico, whereas Cuba props up the group without a point and with a minus-eight goal-differential.

The first match goes at 6 pm ET with Cuba meeting Guatemala; the second kicks off at 8:30 pm with Mexico facing Trinidad and Tobago.