Honduras and Jamaica square off in tonight's CONCACAF Gold Cup action with first place in Group B on the line, but that may not be as desired of a position as it sounds.
With the United States losing 2-1 to Panama on Saturday, the Americans have almost no chance of finishing better than second place in Group C. The Group B winner is set to face the second place finisher from Group C, meaning either Jamaica or Honduras's celebrations would be short-lived if they top the group. Neither will want to face the U.S. in the quarterfinals, even if the Americans showed vulnerability in Saturday's loss.
The alternative is Costa Rica, which will face the Group B runner-up. Neither situation may seem favorable for Jamaica or Honduras, but Costa Rica is a far more desired opponent than the United States.
As much as the United States' loss to Panama is eye opening, Costa Rica lost 4-1 to Mexico and barely salvaged a point against El Salvador. Costa Rica's only win in group play was a 5-0 drubbing of a bad Cuba side, so what exactly have Los Ticos proven?
Jamaica is also yet to receive a test as tough as Honduras, so how the Reggae Boyz handle tonight's match should provide the best insight to date on where they stand in the bigger Gold Cup picture. They have already qualified for the quarterfinals, which is a step in the right direction for a team with hopes of at least a semifinal run.
Comparatively, Honduras was able to take better advantage of Grenada in a 7-1 win (Jamaica only produced a 4-0 win over Grenada after blowing several chances), but Jamaica took care of business against Guatemala.
How will Mauricio Sabillón and the rest of Honduras's defense deal with Ryan Johnson and Luton Shelton up top? Honduras has only given up one goal this tournament, but expect Jamaica to create ample opportunities.
Jamaica is getting offensive production not only from the usual cast of attackers in Shelton, Johnson and Dane Richards, but also from Demar Phillips, who is having a breakout tournament with three goals (including both goals in a 2-0 win over Guatemala), adding a second element to the attack.
Grenada may not be a high quality opponent, but it was left helpless in dealing with Phillips' overlapping runs on the left flank against defenders already trying to contain Jamaica's front line. Phillips is proving to be a dangerous flank player who looks effective as a midfielder or a wing back.
Honduras loves to sit numbers behind the ball, so it may be more apt to deal with forays forward from Phillips and Dicoy Williams. But Jamaica's quality should shine through and see the Reggae Boyz pick up another three points. Then the team will have to await its fate as group winners, presenting a match-up with the United States or possibly even Canada.
Meanwhile, everything is on the line tonight for Guatemala in its final group game against Grenada. The result is far from in question with Grenada losing 4-0 to Jamaica in its opener and getting smacked 7-1 by Honduras on Friday.
A win would give Guatemala four points but it is most important to run up the score on Grenada to boost the chances of a quarterfinal appearance. That, combined with a big win for Jamaica over Honduras could boost Guatemala to a shocking second place finish.
But running up the score on even a clearly overwhelmed Grenada side is easier said than done for a Guatemala side that has yet to score a goal in the tournament (and has just one shot on goal). Carlos Ruiz and Oscar Isaula have to create more chances. The team has failed to even generate quality chances that haven't been on frame. If they cannot improve against Grenada, Guatemala it has no business being in the quarterfinals.
Reaching the quarterfinals would be delightful for Guatemala, a team that failed to even qualify for the Gold Cup in 2009. But as easy as Monday night's fixture looks for Guatemala, it will be telling as to whether or not Guatemala even deserves that.
Jeff Kassouf is a freelance writer and proprietor of Equalizer Soccer who will be contributing to FOX Soccer's coverage of the Gold and Women's World Cups.