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Concacaf second stage kicks off
by Paul Kennedy, September 2nd, 2011 3:04AM

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TAGS:  canada, mls, world cup 2014

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[WORLD CUP 2014 QUALIFYING] The road to Brazil 2014 continues in Concacaf, where 24 teams begin the second round of World Cup qualifying with games Friday and Tuesday. Only the winners of the six four-team groups will join the six exempt teams in the semifinal round of qualifying next year. The USA will want to keep a particular eye on Groups E and F, whose winners will join it and Jamaica in the next round.

GROUP A
Suriname vs. Cayman Islands
El Salvador vs. Dominican Republic
Skinny: El Salvador is the heavy favorite. It called up a pair of American-born players with family ties to El Salvador: Steve Purdy (Portland Timbers) and Arturo Alvarez (Real Salt Lake). The Dominican Republic has brought in Jonathan Fana, who plays for the NASL's Puerto Rico Islanders, and Francisco Ubiera, who is at Florida Tech.

GROUP B
Trinidad & Tobago vs. Bermuda
Guyana vs. Barbados
Skinny: Friday's game against Bermuda at home will be a test of the health of the Trinidad & Tobago national team program. The game is T&T's first since the decision by Jack Warner, the kingpin of T&T soccer, to quit in the wake of the FIFA bribery scandal he was at the center of. Trinidad & Tobago Football Federation president Oliver Camps admitted his organization couldn't afford to organize any friendlies to prepare for qualifying and there were reports that German coach Otto Pfister had not been paid. T&T won't have it so easy in arguably the toughest of the six groups. Bermuda beat the Soca Warriors in Port of Spain in qualifying for the last World Cup. Pfister named Stoke City striker Kenwyne Jones his captain and brought in three MLS players: Julius James (Columbus), Chris Birchall (Los Angeles) and Keon Daniel (Philadelphia). Bermuda's squad includes former MLS player Khano Smith. Barbados will be without two of its best players -- English-based Emmerson Boyce and Paul Ifill -- for the trip to Guyana. They are unavailable until they get new Barbados passports.

GROUP C
Dominica vs. Nicaragua
Panama (bye)
Skinny: Panama, which plays Paraguay in a friendly Friday in Panama City, is the heavy favorite in the group cut down to three teams. Bahamas, the fourth team in the group, withdrew last month when it couldn't come up with a venue after the new Chinese-built stadium that it had planned to use for home games wasn't ready. The 23,000-seat stadium was finished, but the infrastructure around the stadium, parking lot, landscaping and sewer system had not been completed.

GROUP D
Canada vs. St. Lucia
St. Kitts & Nevis vs. Puerto Rico
Skinny: Canada should win against St. Lucia when they meet at Toronto's BMO Field, but Canada coach Stephen Hart is a little concerned about his attack.  Simeon Jackson, hero of Norwich City's promotion camp, has played just six minutes since the Canaries have moved to the EPL. Oliver Occean, Ali Gerba and Rob Friend are all injured. In midfield, Atiba Hutchinson is coming off a knee injury. Canada has the biggest MLS contingent of any team taking part in qualifying this week: Ante Jazic (Chivas USA), Dwayne De Rosario and Dejan Jakovic (D.C. United), Andre Hainault (Houston), Will Johnson (Real Salt Lake), Julian de Guzman and Terry Dunfield (Toronto FC), seven players in total. Puerto Rico, which opens at St. Kitts & Nevis, has only one player from MLS -- goalie Terry Boss (Seattle) -- but eight from the NASL. Costa Rican Jeaustin Campos has taken over for Colin Clarke as Puerto Rico head coach, but Clarke still works closely with the national team. He released six of his players from the Islanders.

GROUP E
Grenada vs. Belize
Guatemala vs. St. Vincent & Grenadines
Skinny: The Chicago Fire's Marco Pappa will play for Guatemala, but Carlos Ruiz, who left the Philadelphia Union for Mexico's Veracruz this summer, is injured and won't play in the first two games. El Pescadito says it would be a disaster if Guatemala, which has never played in the World Cup, didn't reach the semifinal round. He should not worry. Guatemala will advance easily.

GROUP F
Haiti vs. U.S. Virgin Islands
Antigua & Barbuda vs. Curacao
Skinny: Haiti's Brazilian coach, Edson Tabares, called up three players from MLS -- American-born goalie Stewart Ceus (Colorado Rapids), James Marcelin (Portland Timbers) and Jean Alexandre (Real Salt Lake) -- as well as players based in Argentina, Belgium, France, Portugal and the Czech Republic. Friday's game is the biggest its opponent, U.S. Virgin Islands, has ever played, USVI has never qualified for the group stage of qualifying. Preparations were disrupted by Hurricane Irene, however. Half the USVI team couldn't make it to St. Martin for a friendly. Among the Curacao players headed to Antigua & Barbuda is Toronto FC's Javier Martina



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