Orlando City midfielder Darwin Ceren-Gold Cup
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Gold Cup: Underdogs on paper, El Salvador more than capable of springing upsets in Group B

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


EL SALVADOR LOOK TO MAKE A NAME FOR THEMSELVES

Not a heavyweight and not a minnow, Los Cuscatlecos occupy the mushy middle of CONCACAF – rarely a favorite to make the Hex, but still capable of pulling off some surprise results. Their squad is young (with an average age of just under 25) and will be without striker Rodolfo Zelaya, who helped lead El Salvador to the knockout stages of the last two Gold Cups. They also come in lacking momentum, with just one win (over St. Kitts and Nevis) in six games so far in 2015. But as non-FIFA entities like Martinique and Guadeloupe have shown in the past, you can never sleep on anyone at the Gold Cup.

GROUP C SCHEDULE

July 8: vs. Canada, Carson, Calif.
July 11: vs. Costa Rica, Houston, Texas
July 15: vs. Jamaica, Toronto, Ont.

THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH

Rafael Burgos, F, Fredrikstad: The 27-year-old is the most prolific scorer on the Gold Cup roster, with 13 goals in 45 appearances for El Salvador. The diminutive striker found the back of the net consistently in a career that’s taken him from his home country to Guatemala, Austria, Hungary, the U.S. and, now, Norway.

Arturo Alvarez, M, Videoton: Do you vaguely remember Brad Davis getting kneed in the groin during the 2007 MLS playoffs? Well, here’s your perpetrator. That low point aside, Alvarez showed how dangerous he can be (with the soccer ball, that is) during nine MLS seasons spent with San Jose, FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake. Having just celebrated his 30th birthday, he’ll be looking to remind North American audiences of his capabilities.

Andres Flores, M, New York Cosmos: After a five-year stint with Salvadoran heavyweight Isidro Metapan, the 24-year-old had a successful loan spell with New York in the second half of 2014. This season he officially joined the Cosmos, where he lines up alongside the legendary Raúl. He guided El Salvador through last year’s Copa Centroamericana, and will wear the armband at the Gold Cup.

THE COACH

The El Salvador job is the first major managerial gig for 52-year-old Spaniard Albert Roca, but he came into the role with a very creditable CV. Prior to joining El Salvador in early 2014, Roca served as an assistant at Barcelona, Galatasaray and the Saudi Arabian national team. Under Roca, El Salvador have posted a record of five wins, two draws and 10 losses.

GOLD CUP HISTORY

The Gold Cup has been played in its current form a dozen times; El Salvador has been there on eight occasions. The zenith of their participation has been the quarter-finals, which they’ve reached on four occasions (2002, 2003, 2011, 2013).

In the tournament’s previous incarnation, the CONCACAF Championship, El Salvador actually finished as runners-up in both 1963 and 1981. In between those two tournaments came one of the darkest moments in soccer history, the so-called Football War between El Salvador and neighboring Honduras, which led to both nations being banned from the 1969 CONCACAF Championship.

MLS/USA CONNECTIONS

Orlando City SC midfielder Darwin Cerén will be there, looking to add to his 26 caps. And as noted above, Alvarez has plenty of MLS experience. Looking elsewhere in North America, there are some NASL connections as well. As mentioned above, Flores plies his trade for the Cosmos, while Tampa Bay Rowdies midfielder Richard Menjivar is also on the El Salvador squad.