US in quarters as Panama, Cuba draw
Panama and Cuba yesterday left their quarter-final aspirations hanging by a thread, after they battled to a 0-0 draw in their Group B fixture at Jarrett Park in Montego Bay.
However, both teams must be cursing their luck as while Panama missed a first-half penalty through skipper Roberto Chen, the Cubans struck the crossbar through Dairon Perez in the dying moments of the game and also missed a spate of good chances.
By virtue of yesterday's result, Cuba have completed their group fixture with one point while Panama, who have an outstanding game against the United States, also have one point.
Interestingly, the result means the United States, by virtue of their 3-1 win against Cuba, have qualified for the quarter-final as they already have three points, and two teams will move forward from the group.
"I believe we blundered badly when our captain missed that penalty because that would have given us a good chance to win the game," said Panama's coach, Jorges Dely Valdez.
"Our aim now is to keep a clean sheet against the US and that should take us through."
With their fate in the hands of the Americans, Cuba's coach, Israel Blake, still thinks they have a chance of advancing.
"We just have to hope that the Americans win big against Panama and give us a chance to go through on goal difference ... we just have to be hopeful," said Blake. "We would really like to extend our stay in this competition."
Meanwhile, the heavy wear and tear on the playing surface at the new Montego Bay Sports Complex in Catherine Hall, Montego Bay, has forced the organisers to switch some of the games slated for that facility to Jarrett Park.
The first four games of the championship were played at the complex.
"The workload is very heavy for a new surface so we took a decision to switch Thursday's and Friday's games to Jarrett Park to give the Catherine Hall surface a rest," said JFF vice-president, Bruce Gaynor.
"We will be going back to Catherine Hall for Saturday's double-header involving Jamaica," he added.
The Catherine Hall surface, which has a strong sand base, came in for much criticism from United States' coach Wilmer Cabrera, after his team's 3-1 win against Cuba.
Cabrera described the surface as "bumpy and dangerous" and unfit for the tournament.
"We played badly because the field was bad," said Cabrera in his post-game interview. "It is bumpy and dangerous and should not have been used to host any games."
It should be noted that Jarrett Park was initially rejected as a venue and only came back into the reckoning when the Trelawny Multi-purpose was rejected by the CONCACAF inspection team.
"Jarrett Park is the best venue in Montego Bay and it is a pity the organisers found that out late," said Adrian Grant, chairman of the Jarrett Park Management Committee. "We would have done well with some of the money that went into the preparation at Catherine Hall."