The U.S. Men’s National Team opens the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup against Guyana on Tuesday, June 18 at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minn. (10 p.m. ET; FS1, UniMas & UDN).
Here are five things you should know about the first-time Gold Cup participants:
South American Nation in Concacaf
First things first. If you’re looking at a map, you’ll see Guyana is on the continent of South America, so why do they, along with Suriname and French Guiana, play in Concacaf?
Generally speaking the trio identifies more culturally with the Caribbean, with their sizes also making them a better fit with the Concacaf region.
Other examples of this across the world exist with Russia, Israel and Australia. The first two are completely or partially located in Asia but are members of the European confederation – UEFA. Australia were once members of the Oceanic Football Confederation (OFC), but have been part of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) since 2013.
Known for a long time as British Guyana, the country gained independence in 1966 and became a FIFA member in 1970. The nation’s footballing history isn’t all that rich, however.
Highlights include finishing fourth at the 1991 CFU Caribbean Cup, and a 13-game winning streak that ran from 2005-06. The team’s crowning achievement is simply getting to this year’s Gold Cup, with the Golden Jaguars set to make their first appearance at the confederation championship this year.
How They Got Here
Prior to this year’s Gold Cup, nations from the Caribbean and Central America qualified for the competition via regional tournaments. With the advent of the Concacaf Nations League which will begin this fall, the confederation changed things up for this year’s competition by having the top 10 finishers in 2019-20 Nations League Qualifying also gain entry to the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup.
Guyana finished seventh out of the 34 nations that took part, booking their first-ever berth in the Concacaf Gold Cup. Though they began qualifying with a 2-2 draw against Barbados, the result was overturned and Guyana was awarded a 3-0 victory due to Barbados’ use of an ineligible player. Guyana went on to defeat Turks & Caicos 8-0 last October and fell 2-1 to neighbors French Guiana in November before edging Belize 2-1 to book their place on the final matchday.
The Coach: Michael Johnson
The man that has guided Guyana to its first Gold Cup appearance is Michael Johnson. No, that’s not the four-time Olympic gold medal sprinter. He’s the former Jamaica international who had a long career in England.
Born in Nottingham, England, Johnson began his career with the world’s oldest professional football club, Notts County, at age 18. He went on to play for Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday, before closing out his career where it began in 2009.
Eligible to play for Jamaica, Johnson earned 13 caps with the Reggae Boyz and took part in the 2000 and 2003 Concacaf Gold Cups. The 45-year-old took the Guyana job ahead of last fall’s Concacaf Nations League qualifiers, guiding the team to a 3-3-0 record in six matches.
Johnson named his final 23-player roster for the Gold Cup in late May, calling players that are based in eight different countries.
Three players have ties to the U.S. or Major League Soccer. Former Toronto FC, Real Salt Lake and FC Cincinnati attacker Emery Welshman features in the squad, alongside Pittsburgh Riverhounds defender Jordan Dover. Current Philadelphia Union midfielder Warren Creavalle was originally on the roster, but was forced out due to injury and replaced by California-born Brandon Beresdord, who currently plays for Peachtree City MOBA in USL League Two.
Seventeen players on the squad were born outside of Guyana, with 12 born in England, where a number of the players ply their trades in the country’s lower leagues. Most notably, forward Callum Harriot was teammates with U.S. defender Matt Miazga at Reading in the English Championship this past season.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Akel Clark (Walking Boyz Company/SUR), Alex Murray (Santos Georgetown), Quillan Roberts (Forge FC/CAN)
DEFENDERS (8): Matthew Briggs (Maldon & Tiptree/ENG), Sam Cox (Hampton & Richmond Borough/ENG), Kadell Daniel (Dover Athletic/ENG), Jordan Dover (Pittsburgh Riverhounds/USA), Liam Gordon (Dagenham & Redbridge/ENG), Kevin Layne (New Amsterdam United), Ronayne Marsh-Brown (Whitehawk/ENG), Terence Vancooten (Stevenage/ENG)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Elliot Bonds (Dagenham & Redbridge/ENG), Warren Creavalle (Philadelphia Union/USA), Neil Danns (Bury/ENG), Stephen Duke-McKenna (Bolton Wanderers/ENG), Pernell Schultz (Western Tigers), Daniel Wilson (Western Tigers)
FORWARDS (6): Callum Harriot (Reading/ENG), Sheldon Holder (Morvant Caledonia United/TRI), Anthony Jeffrey (Dover Athletic/ENG), Keanu Marsh-Brown (Newport County/WAL), Terrel Ondaan (Telstar/NED), Emery Welshman (Forge FC/CAN)