With the CONCACAF Gold Cup in progress, Major League Soccer teams are going without some of the biggest stars. The Gold Cup is a 12-team tournament for national teams competing in North and Central America as well as the Caribbean Islands. This year there is even more at stake as the Gold Cup winner is given the chance to play in the Confederations Cup in 2013 as a preview for the 2014 World Cup. Of the 12 teams competing, 10 teams field players from MLS (Cuba and Panama are the exceptions). Here is a list of the 10 best MLS players competing in this year’s Gold Cup:
In only his second season Ream is one of the best young defenders in MLS. Many think U.S. coach, Bob Bradley is taking a risk with Ream, but he could lift a defense that struggled. Ream is not only a great defender but has good vision of the field and creates offense with precision passing — something the backline has sorely missed.
Saborio will look to lose a shaky MLS season while starting as a striker for the Costa Rican national club. Los Ticos came closest to winning the Gold Cup in 2009, losing to Mexico in the semifinals on penalty kicks. A similar result will be difficult as Costa Rica’s backline is young and inexperienced.
Richards joins Ricketts and Colorado striker Omar Cummings on the Reggae Boyz squad. Richards is short for an MLS forward but is fast and crafty with the ball. Jamaica is in the weakest Gold Cup group and will look to capitalize against Guatemala and Grenada.
The streaky striker struggled in MLS play early on but has come alive as of late, scoring six goals in 11 games. This is Wondo’s first Gold Cup, but many are expecting him to start at the forward slot with Joze Altidore in the same way former RSL striker Robbie Findley did.
Pappa is a great addition for the Guatemalan team. He will learn much from the Philadelphia Union’s Carlos Ruiz, who has been the face of Guatemalan soccer for a decade. Pappa is one of the only reasons the Fire haven’t lost more games in a difficult 2011 season.
He’s the third-string goalkeeper on the U.S. squad and unlikely to play in the Gold Cup, but Rimando can’t be left off this list. Rimando is the biggest reason RSL won the 2009 Championship Cup and is doing his best to keep the team’s head out of water during a difficult stretch this season.
The longtime MLS veteran has struggled in MLS play this year, but if Canada is to advance in Gold Cup play De Rosario’s will have to play well. He has scored 15 goals in 52 appearances for the Canadian team.
Since joining the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2008, Ricketts has been the best goalkeeper in the league. His goals against average is the lowest in MLS history and his save percentage is third all-time. Ricketts is one of eight MLS players on the Jamaican squad hoping to make it to the finals for the first time.
Donovan is the unquestioned — if not always liked — leader of the U.S. team, although his heroic goals in the 2010 World Cup won over many. This year Donovan hopes to avenge a 5-0 US loss to Mexico in the 2009 Gold Cup final. Donovan has been playing well for the Galaxy since returning from an injury, scoring a league-high eight goals in 11 games.
Marquez was a former FC Barcelona player who joined the Red Bulls in 2010. He will play as captain for the Mexican squad as defender. Marquez’s team has many speedy options up top including Javier Henandez and Giovani Dos Santos.