USA vs. Belize Gold Cup preview

Juergen Klinsmann and the U.S. national team open the CONCACAF Gold Cup tonight with a matchup that is lopsided on paper — and promises to be one-sided in outcome.

The opponents are the Jaguars of Belize, who are making their debut in a major international tournament. Kickoff from Portland’s Jeld-Wen Field is at 11 p.m. ET on Fox Soccer, UniMas, Univision Deportes, www.univisiondeportes.com and www.foxsoccer2go.com.

Belize’s FIFA ranking: 130 (18th in CONCACAF).

Highest FIFA ranking ever: 128 (in March).

Lowest FIFA ranking ever: 201 (in 2007).

Forward Michael Salazar, 20, will play for UC Riverside this fall. The population of Riverside, Calif., is 313,000. The population of Belize is 334,000.

Most of the players compete in their domestic league and have part-time jobs. Goalkeeper Shane Moody-Orio is a full professional player, employed by Honduran club Marathon. He spent several years in Costa Rica with Puntarenas.

The federation raised funds to compete in the Gold Cup by staging barbecues, dances and telethons. (Donations are still welcome.) Nike gifted uniforms.

How did Belize qualify for the Gold Cup? By advancing to the semifinals of Copa Centroamericana early this year in Costa Rica. The Jaguars beat out Guatemala for second place in the group stage behind the host Ticos. In the knockout rounds, they lost to Honduras and El Salvador by just 1-0 scores — the goals were not conceded until the second half.

Their coach is American: Kansas native Ian Mork.

Ruperto Vicente, president of the federation, reportedly rallied the troops by saying, “I call on our national team to not only beat the United States but to humiliate the United States. It is your responsibility. It is your task.”

Good luck.

The Americans are 25-1-2 in Gold Cup group-stage history. The defeat came against Panama in 2011. The draws were with Costa Rica (2005) and Haiti (2009).

Klinsmann is not at full strength — the European-based regulars needed a break before reporting for club training camps — but does have a unit headlined by Landon Donovan that crushed Guatemala, 6-0, in Friday night’s tuneup in San Diego.

In the other group match in Portland tonight, Costa Rica will play Cuba at 8:30 ET (Fox Soccer, UniMas, Univision Deportes, univisiondeportes.com, foxsoccer2go.com).

USA roster:

GOALKEEPERS: Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake).

DEFENDERS: Corey Ashe (Houston Dynamo), DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake), Edgar Castillo (Tijuana), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Oguchi Onyewu (Sporting Lisbon), Michael Orozco Fiscal (Puebla), Michael Parkhurst (Augsburg).

MIDFIELDERS: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Helsingborg), Joe Corona (Tijuana), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Stuart Holden (Bolton), Brek Shea (Stoke City), Jose Torres (Tigres).

FORWARDS: Will Bruin (Houston Dynamo), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Herculez Gomez (Tijuana), Jack McInerney (Philadelphia Union), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes).

The remaining U.S. schedule:

Saturday: Cuba at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah

Next Tuesday: Costa Rica at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn.

Assuming the Americans advance, their knockout schedule would be …

July 21: Quarterfinal at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore

July 24: Semifinal at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Tex.

July 28: Final at Soldier Field in Chicago

 

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.
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