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Honduras vs. Costa Rica | 2017 Gold Cup Match Preview

Honduras vs. Costa Rica
2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup - Group A, Matchday 1
Red Bull Arena - Harrison, N.J.
Friday, July 7 – 9:30 pm ET
WATCH: FS2, UniMás, UDN in USA; TSN2 in Canada (tape delayed at 11 pm ET)

Two of CONCACAF's most dangerous teams will square off in a Gold Cup opener that could tell us a lot about their chances at competing for the trophy with the United States and Mexico. Both Honduras and Costa Rica will be expected to advance from Group A, which also contains Canada and French Guiana (meeting immediately before this game at Red Bull Arena), but there is plenty of history between these two sides to keep things interesting, as well as plenty of MLS-based talent on the field.

Between them, the Catrachos and Ticos have called up a combined nine players currently featuring for MLS teams – four on the Honduran side and five for Costa Rica. All of those players are candidates to feature as the two teams start another quest to become the first outside the US and Mexico to win the Gold Cup since Canada won it all back in the year 2000.

Honduras

Though a few notable players are missing from this Gold Cup squad (think Andy Najar, Roger Espinoza and Emilio Izaguirre), they have still added some serious firepower and experience to the squad that capture the 2017 Copa Centroamericana title earlier this year to book their place in the Gold Cup.

Houston Dynamo midfielder Boniek Garcia is one of the players brought back in after spending the Copa Centroamericana in preseason with the Dynamo, and his 120 caps are second only to FC Dallas defender Maynor Figueroa (138 caps) among the Catrachos squad. The 32-year-old is set to participate in his fifth Gold Cup and fully understands the importance of winning the tournament's opening game.

“I think that it is a vital match,” Garcia told CONCACAF.com. “We’ll see how we come out.  It would be important to win.”

A strong Gold Cup could also re-ignite Honduras' push to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. They currently sit fifth out of six teams with four games remaining in the Hex, and risk missing out on world soccer's biggest stage for the first time in three cycles.

“It is a nice opportunity to regroup ourselves and do things better in order to aspire to the highest, to be within the top four and win the Gold Cup,” Garcia said. “There are chances [to qualify for Russia 2018]. We have to keep believing in this national team and trusting. 

“There is a lot of work to be done. In this Gold Cup many conclusions can be taken.”

HONDURAS 23-PLAYER SQUAD

Goalkeepers (3): Ricardo Canales (CDS Vida), Donis Escober (Olimpia), Luis Lopez (Real España)

Defenders (8): Ever Alvarado (Olimpia), Brayan Beckeles (Necaxa / MEX), Felix Crisanto (Motagua), Henry Figueroa (Motagua), Maynor Figueroa (FC Dallas / USA), Marcelo Pereira (Motagua), Carlos Sanchez (Honduras Progreso), Allans Vargas (Real España)

Midfielders (8): Bryan Acosta (Real España), Jorge Claros (Real España), Carlos Discua (Motagua), Boniek Garcia (Houston Dynamo / USA), Ovido Lanza (Juticalpa FC), Alex Lopez (Olimpia), Alfredo Mejia (Xanthi FC / GRE), Sergio Peña (Real Sociedad)

Forwards (4): Alberth Elis (Houston Dynamo / USA), Anthony Lozano (Tenerife / SPA), Rony Martinez (Real Sociedad), Romell Quioto (Houston Dynamo / USA)

Manager: Jorge Luis Pinto (Colombia)

Costa Rica

Like their Honduran counterparts, Costa Rica are blooding some young players at the Gold Cup alongside a well-traveled group of vetrans, and could likely pose the greatest threat to the hegemony the US and Mexico have enjoyed in collecting Gold Cup titles since Canada won in 2000.

Though overcoming the continent's two superpowers will be no easy ask, New York City FC midfielder Rodney Wallace is confident Los Ticos have what it takes to win their first Gold Cup title.

"We have a very good chance of winning the Gold Cup because we have a very good team," Wallace said to CONCACAF.com.  "The team knows how we play.  We know our system and we have the confidence and ability to win this tournament."

COSTA RICA 23-PLAYER SQUAD

Goalkeepers (3): Dany Carvajal (Saprissa), Leonel Moreira (Herediano), Patrick Pemberton (Alajuelense)

Defenders (9): Johnny Acosta (Herediano), Francisco Calvo (Minnesota United FC / USA), Christian Gamboa (Celtic / SCO), Giancarlo Gonzalez (Palermo / ITA), Kenner Guiterrez (Alajuelense), Ronald Matarrita (New York City FC / USA)*, Bryan Oviedo (Sunderland / ENG), Jose Salvatierra (Alajuelense), Michael Umaña (unattached), Juan Pablo Vargas (Herediano)*

Midfielders (7): Randall Azofeifa (Herediano), Joel Campbell (Arsenal / ENG), David Guzman (Portland Timbers / USA), Bryan Ruiz (Sporting CP / POR), Ulises Segura (Saprissa), Yeltsin Tejeda (FC Lausanne-Sport / SUI), Rodney Wallace (New York City FC / USA)

Forwards (4): David Ramirez (Saprissa), Ariel Rodriguez (Bangkok Glass FC / THA), Marco Ureña (San Jose Earthquakes / USA), Johan Venegas (Minnesota United FC / USA)

*: Matarrita sustained a broken foot after the final roster was named and will be replaced on the roster by Juan Pablo Vargas.

Manager: Oscar Ramirez (Costa Rica)

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