MIAMI, Florida– With 16 of the 17 Matchday One matches now done and dusted, it is safe to The Concacaf Nations League is off to a roaring start.
The initiative undertaken by Concacaf’s leadership to improve the level of competition across the region was on full display, as the 16 matches showcased the quality of players from all around the Concacaf region for a global audience to see.
For goalscoring purists, Matchday One did not fail to entertain. A total of 80 goals were scored across the 16 matches, with just one match finishing in a goalless draw (Dominica 0-0 Suriname).
Of note were the performances of Cuba, Haiti and Curacao. The Cubans tallied 11 goals in its victory over Turks and Caicos Islands, sending a message to all that it is keen on reaching its ninth Concacaf Gold Cup.
Also impressing with their ability to finish were Haiti and Curacao. Led by Duckens Nazon and his CNL-leading five goals, Haiti scored 13 goals against Sint Maarten, while Curacao found the back of the net 10 times against Grenada.
There were also a number of teams that caught the eye with their results.
Saint Lucia, who has never qualified for a Gold Cup, departed Antigua and Barbuda with a convincing 3-0 victory. Considering Antigua and Barbuda were five years ago going toe-to-toe with teams like the United States in Concacaf World Cup Qualifying, Saint Lucia will feel very confident after its victory. Not to be outdone was Aruba, who managed to get past a pesky Bermuda side 3-1 and now has a first ever Gold Cup in its sights.
Here are some of the other top moments from Matchday One of the CNL.
- The CNL is a tournament for all ages:On Matchday One, the most seasoned and veteran of players saw a full 90 minutes of action, with 44-year-old Dominica DF Euclid Bertrand going the distance in the 0-0 draw versus Suriname. At the other end of the spectrum, 16-year-old Ian Lowe came on as the substitute goalkeeper and performed admirably for Bahamas in its 4-0 loss to Belize.
- Dramatic finishes:There were plenty of exciting moments in the 16 matches, but certainly Oscar Ceren’s goal in the 90+4’ to give El Salvador a 2-1 win at Montserrat kept cardiologists busy, as did Harry Panayiotou’s 90+1’ strike to earn Saint Kitts and Nevis a thrilling 1-0 win over Puerto Rico.
- When Concacaf brings out your best:When you think of Deon McCauley, you think of goals. The Belize FW, who was the co-leader in goals scored during 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying (11 goals), just seems to thrive in Concacaf competition and did so again in the CNL with his 40’ strike in Belize’s 4-0 win versus Bahamas.
- Ready in a pinch:Coming off the bench as a substitute can be tricky, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for Domingo Peralta of the Dominican Republic. The forward came on at halftime and scored a hat-trick in just 23 minutes to help lift the Dominican Republic past Bonaire, 5-0.
- On the way back:Sometime the greatest victories don’t have game-winning goals. For nations like Dominica, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin and Sint Maarten, just being able to participate in this tournament is a victory itself in light of the devastation suffered by those nations in last fall’s hurricanes. The competitive spirit showed by these nations and others that have been affected by natural disasters serve as an inspiration to the rest of the region.