On Thursday evening, international soccer returns to CenturyLink Field in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup, bringing the tournament to Seattle for the third time since 2005.
In the early match, Martinique meets Panama at 5:30 p.m. PT and the later match at 8 p.m. PT pits Canada against Mexico. The matchups were anticipated to be two teams coming into the night at 1-0-0 in one match and two teams at 0-1-0 in the other, however, the results thus far have been anything but on-script.
On Sunday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., Martinique surprised Canada with a 1-0 victory while Panama outlasted Mexico, 2-1. That leaves Mexico and Canada both desperate for a result on Thursday while Panama and Martinique are sitting pretty atop the standings.
The surprise Martinique side is led by 25-year-old striker Kevin Parsemain. Playing for Riviere-Pilote in Martinique after playing for two lower-division sides in France, Parsemain has garnered quite a successful international career already with 20 goals in 30 caps. He scored twice in Martinique’s run to fourth in the 2012 Caribbean Cup in Decemeber and has been a constant threat for them in other competitions.
For Panama, Gabriel Torres scored both goals in the 2-1 win over Mexico. He regularly gets on the score sheet for Zamora FC in Venezuela and while his international scoring record has been sparse, the two goals on Sunday were an optimistic sign for the 24-year-old. Also of note is 19-year-old defender Roberto Chen. Recently on trial in Seattle, Chen is no stranger to CenturyLink Field, where he played with San Francisco of Panama as a 17-year-old in the 2011 CONCACAF Champions League preliminary round. He has played both as a center back and as a right back and, despite his youth, has been far from overwhelmed even on the international stage.
Mexico doesn’t have their stars like Chicharito or Giovani do Santos, but Marco Fabian is making his case as an up-and-coming star for El Tri. The 23-year-old Chivas de Guadalajara midfielder was the top scorer in the 2012 CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament and helped Mexico to the gold medal at the 2012 Olympics. He has proven to be a prodigious scorer at the club level and may seem familiar to Sounders FC fans – he scored the only goal for Chivas in a 3-1 Seattle win in a friendly at CenturyLink Field in 2010.
Against Canada, Mexico will face a team with plenty of MLS experience, but two of their most prominent players come from Seattle’s Cascadia rivals. Midfielders Will Johnson and Russell Teibert highlight a youthful Canadian side that is looking to find their identity heading into the next World Cup qualifying cycle. Johnson has been a revelation as captain for the Portland Timbers. Already an MLS All-Star in the 2009 season, Johnson earned a second All-Star nod with career-highs of six goals and three assists in 17 matches this season. Teibert, meanwhile, is in his third MLS season with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC after coming up through their residency program. He has come into his own in 2013 with two goals and six assists in just 13 matches for Vancouver and, at just 20 years old, has loads of promise.
Buy tickets for Thursday Gold Cup doubleheader at CenturyLink Field here. Martinique will take on Panama while Mexico and Canada will do battle from 5:30 p.m. PT!