Marco Pappa, Gold Cup treatment
USA Today Sports

Gold Cup: Marco Pappa, Carlos Ruiz lead Guatemala side with knockout-stage expectations

CONCACAF's marquee competition kicks off on July 7. For comprehensive 2015 Gold Cup coverage, bookmark this page.


AMBITIOUS GUATEMALA LOOK TO BUILD ON 2014 SUCCESS

Coming off a surprising finals appearance in the 2014 Copa Centroamericana, Guatemala will seek to continue their good form with a strong showing at the Gold Cup. Quarterfinalists in 2011, can the Central Americans really make a run and reach the semifinals for the first time since 1996? It won’t be easy but they have a decent draw and could make some waves this summer.

GROUP C SCHEDULE

July 9: vs. Trinidad & Tobago, Chicago, Ill.
July 12: vs. Mexico, Glendale, Arizona
July 15: vs. Cuba, Charlotte, N.C.

THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH

Marco Pappa, M, Seattle Sounders: The player of the tournament at last year’s Copa Centroamericana, Pappa has become a key player in Seattle’s potent attack and appears to be in the best form of his career. That’s good news for Guatemala, who will need an exceptional tournament from him to knock off one of the powers and make a deep run. The thing is, he is capable of doing it.

Carlos Ruiz, F, Municipal: El Pescadito is still in action, and the former MLS star is still in pretty good form back home for Municipal. This may not strictly be his team to carry anymore, but for a player as wily up top as Ruiz, don’t be surprised if he finds the back of the net at the Gold Cup.

Ricardo Jerez, GK, Alianza Petrolera: If Guatemala are going to have a good Gold Cup, the defense and Jerez will need to do their part. The incumbent will have a lock on the No. 1 this summer, but coming off a disappointing campaign for Colombian team Alianza Petrolera should give him the motivation to really impress in the tournament.

THE COACH

Ivan Sopegno, in charge of Guatemala for just over a year, has already faced ups and downs in his tenure, from the good Copa Centroamericana to a player boycott (that included Pappa and Ruiz) late last year in response to a domestic club not paying their players for three months. But with a full-strength roster, the Argentine will be optimistic that this is his team’s time.

GOLD CUP HISTORY

Winners of the 1967 CONCACAF Championship on home soil, Guatemala’s best finish in the Gold Cup era was a fourth place showing in 1996. They did not qualify for the 2013 Gold Cup, but reached the quarterfinals in their previous appearance, in 2011.

MLS/USA CONNECTIONS

Besides the Sounders’ Pappa, Guatemala’s Gold Cup roster includes defenders Elias Vasquez (Real Salt Lake) and Moises Hernandez (FC Dallas)… Ruiz, who played in MLS from 2002-08, 2011 and 2013 for the LA Galaxy, FC Dallas, Toronto FC, Philadelphia Union and D.C. United, is ranked ninth all-time in MLS regular season scoring, and won MLS MVP, MLS Cup MVP MLS Golden Boot and MLS Cup in 2002 with the Galaxy. He also tied for the MLS Golden Boot in 2003 and was MLS All-Star Game MVP in 2003.