[GOLD CUP PREVIEW] Colorado Rapids star Omar Cummings won't be playing for Jamaica. Shalrie Joseph has decided not to play for Grenada. And Andy Najar, the 2010 MLS Rookie of the Year, wasn't picked to play for Honduras. But there
are many U.S. connections to the four teams in the Gold Cup's Group B, the most balanced of the three groups.
HONDURAS. After considerable anticipation in the Honduran press, Najar, the 18-year-old immigrant, decided he'd play for the Catrachos rather than wait to get U.S. citizenship and play for the USA. One small thing: Honduras didn't call him up for the Gold Cup.
The Catrachos have played in nine of the 10 Gold Cups but haven't reached the final since the tournament's first edition in 1991 when they fell to the United States on penalty kicks.
Honduras has penalty of depth. It won the Copa Centroamericana in January to qualify for the Gold Cup without many of its European-based stars.
Colombian coach Luis Suarez, who coached Ecuador at the 2006 World Cup, has brought in defender Emilio Izaguirre, the 2011 Scottish Premier League Player of the Year at Celtic, Tottenham's Wilson Palacios and Maynor Figueroa and Hendry Thomas from EPL survivor Wigan.
U.S. connection: Ramon Nunez and Roger Espinoza both attended high school and college in the United States. Nunez spent the last part of the 2011 season at Leeds United in England; Espinoza is in his fourth season in MLS with Kansas City.
Goalkeepers: Orlin Vallecillo (Marathon), Donis Escober (Olimpia), Noel Valladares (Olimpia)
Defenders: Osman Chavez (Wisla Krakow, Poland), Oscar Bonieck Garcia (Olimpia), Maynor Figueroa (Wigan, England), Hendry Thomas (Wigan, England), Mauricio Sabillon (Marathon), Brayan Beckeles (Vida), Victor Bernardez (Lierse, Belgium), Jhonny Leveron (Motagua)
Midfielders: Ramon Nunez (Leeds United, England), Roger Espinoza (Sporting Kansas City), Wilson Palacios (Tottenham, England), Emilio Izaguirre (Celtic, Scotland), Alfredo Mejia (Real Espana), Eder Delgado (Real Espana), Javier Portillo (Olimpia), Emil Martinez (Marathon)
Forwards: Eddie Hernandez (Platense), Carlo Costly (Atlas, Mexico), Jerry Bengtson (Motagua), Walter Martinez (Beijing Guoan, China)
JAMAICA. Winners of back-to-back Caribbean titles, the Reggae Boyz have one of their strongest teams ever.
They haven't won a game in the knockout phase of the Gold Cup since it was expanded to 12 teams in 2000, but that could change this year under Coach Theodore Whitmore, the former midfielder.
Even with the absence of the injured Cummings, Jamaica has eight MLS players, more than any other team at the Gold Cup, including the USA.
U.S. connection: Tyrone Marshall (Colorado Rapids) moved to Florida at the age of 12 and attended college at Lindsey Wilson and FIU, is the elder statesman of the team at 36. Ryan Johnson (San Jose Earthquakes) moved to the Boston area from Jamaica as an infant and starred at Oregon State. Shavar Thomas (Sporting Kansas City) was educated at Connecticut prep school Hotchkiss and UConn. Dane Richards (New York Red Bulls) played at San Jacinto JC before enrolling at Clemson.
Goalkeepers: Donovan Ricketts (Los Angeles Galaxy), Dwayne Miller (Syrianska, Sweden), Duwayne Kerr (Strommen, Sweden)
Defenders: Shavar Thomas (Sporting Kansas City), Jermaine Taylor (Houston Dynamo), Demar Phillips (Aalesund, Norway), Adrian Reid (Valerenga, Norway), Eric Vernan (Nybergsund, Norway), Dicoy Williams (Toronto FC), Ian Goodison (Tranmere Rovers, England), Tyrone Marshall (Colorado Rapids)
Midfielders: Omar Daley (Bradford City, England), Jason Morrison (Aalesund, Norway), Richard Edwards (Harbour View), Jevaughn Watson (Houston Dynamo), Damian Williams (Nybergsund, Norway), Keammar Daley (Tivoli Gardens), Rodolph Austin (Brann, Norway), Navion Boy (Tivoli Gardens),
Forwards: Dane Richards (New York Red Bulls), Ryan Johnson (San Jose Earthquakes), Luton Shelton (Valerenga, Norway)
GUATEMALA. Of the four major soccer-playing Central American nations, Guatemala is the lone country that has failed to play in the World Cup.
Its record in the Gold Cup isn't much better. It failed to qualify in 2009 -- losing out to lowly Nicaragua for the fifth Central American berth -- and it had won only one game in the six previous tournaments.
But Guatemalan soccer is looking up as evidenced by its first qualification for the Under-20 World Cup.
The Philadelphia Union's Carlos Ruiz, Guatemala's all-time leading scorer with 42 goals, will lead the Chapines at the Gold Cup.
U.S. connection: Henry Lopez, whose goal gave Guatemala a 2-1 win over the USA to qualify for the 2011 Under-20 World Cup, is a resident of Manassas, Va., and played last season in the USL-2. He was a late addition to Guatemala's Gold Cup team.
Goalkeepers: Ricardo Jerez (USAC), Juan Jose Paredes (Comunicaciones), Paulo Cesar Motta (Mictlan).
Defenders: Edwin Gonzalez (Mictlan), Henry Medina (Herediano, Costa Rica), Carlos Gallardo (USAC), Carlos Castrillo (Comunicaciones), Cristian Noriega (Municipal), Gustavo Cabrera (Municipal), Elias Enoc Vasquez (Comunicaciones), Manuel Leon (USAC), Wilfred Velasquez (Suchitepequez), Jonathan Lopez (Marquense).
Midfielders: Jairo Arreola (Comunicaciones), Jose Manuel Contreras (Comunicaciones), Jose del Aguila (Comunicaciones), Gonzalo Romero (Municipal).
Forwards: Henry Lopez (Noreste, Brazil), Carlos Figueroa (Xelaju), Marco Pappa (Chicago Fire), Carlos Ruiz (Philadelphia), Dwight Pezzarossi (Comunicaciones), Oscar Isaula (Malacateco).
GRENADA. The USA's loss was also Grenada's loss. New England Revolution midfielder Benny Feilhaber's injury, which forced him out of the Gold Cup, was cited as a reason for Joseph to stay with the Revs and tell the Spice Boyz he'd skip the Gold Cup.
Grenada is the smallest nation to ever play in the Gold Cup, losing all three games by a combined 10-0 score in 2009.
Coach Mike Adams has brought in five players from the lower divisions of English soccer, including David Cyrus from Ossett Town in the seventh level.
U.S. connection: Sporting Kansas City's Craig Rocastle was born and raised in England. He debuted for Grenada at the 2010 Digicel Caribbean Championship.
Goalkeepers: Andray Baptiste (Police FC), Desmond Noel (QPR), Shemel Louison (Fontenoy FC)
Defenders: Shanon Phillip (Hurricane), Casim Langaigne (Hurricane), Benedict Modeste (QPR), David Cyrus (Ossett Town, England), Clive Murray (Paradise), Marc Marshall (GBSS), Leon Johnson (Wycombe Wanderers, England)
Midfielders: Shane Rennie (Paradise), Ricky Charles (QPR), Patrick Modeste (QPR), Lancaster Joseph (Hurricane), Craig Rocastle (Sporting Kansas City), Moron Phillip (Hurricane), Dwayne Leo (South Stars)
Forwards: Delroy Facey (Lincoln City, England), Bradley Bubb (Farnborough, England), Marcus Julien (ESS), Anthony Straker (Aldershot Town, England), Junior Williams (QPR).
1. Honduras, 2. Jamaica, 3. Guatemala, 4. Grenada.