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CONCACAF World Cup qualifying: Third Round Matchday 4 recap

Matchday 4 of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying took place on Tuesday night. The action opened up the October portion of the qualifying campaign, which brings three more crucial games for the eight remaining CONCACAF teams.

The teams will have played just under half of their 14 matches by the end of the October stretch of games. At this stage of the competition, there is hardly any room for error for teams that are hoping to punch their ticket to Qatar next fall. 

Here is a look at the outcomes of four more vital CONCACAF games (stats from FotMob).

United States 2-0 Jamaica

The USMNT began October the way they finished December. Playing their first ever World Cup qualifying match in the state of Texas, the USA kept their composure through some controversial refereeing decisions to get the job done against Jamaica.

Although no goals were scored in the first half, there was plenty of action. Kemar Lawrence and Damion Lowe each picked up yellow cards on incidents that the USMNT would have felt warranted sending offs. In the second half, emerging star Ricardo Pepi made his presence felt. The 18-year-old scored twice, once with his head and once with his right foot. Assists from Sergiño Dest and Brendan Aaronson helped Pepi pick up his second and third goals in two World Cup qualifiers. The USMNT certainly looks more dangerous with Pepi, who has been linked with moves to Ajax and Bayern Munich, on the field.

The home win lifted the USA to the top of the octagonal. The USMNT will look to build on their last two victories in order to solidify their automatic qualification spot. Jamaica, on the other hand, remains in last place in the group. Injuries to key players like Leon Bailey have not helped the Reggae Boyz. However, manager Theodore Whitmore needs to find a way to pick up points in the next two games. Otherwise, Jamaica may just find themselves too far down to make a comeback.

Honduras 0-0 Costa Rica

This contest between Honduras and Costa Rica was the lone scoreless draw of Matchday 4. Honduras, playing at home, had two thirds of the possession in this one and generated 24 total shots to Costa Rica’s four. 

In the end, both teams had to settle for their third draw in four third round World Cup qualifiers. Neither team has managed to pick up a win yet, but they have both been competitive. Costa Rica’s defense in particular has been impressive. Led by Kaylor Navas, they have conceded just two goals. 

Costa Rica and Honduras will both have to start winning games at some point if they want to qualify for the World Cup. However, the three points the teams have puts them just two points off the inter-confederation play-off spot. Both sides have competed extremely hard thus far. As a result, neither of them are out of contention just yet.

Mexico 1-1 Canada

In a game that took place in the vaunted Estadio Azteca, it was Canada who emerged with a hard fought point. Canada had lost their last five matches against Mexico going into this one. However, it is undeniable at this point that this is a different Canadian team to the ones we have seen in the past. The presence of the world class talent that is Alphonso Davies means that The Canucks can compete with anyone in CONCACAF. This is why they are one of the three unbeaten teams after four third round games.

It was the home team who opened the scoring in this one, with Jorge Sánchez finding the back of the net in the 21st minute off a feed from Hirving Lozano. Canada were not fazed though, and they responded before the conclusion of the first half. That man Alphonso Davies found Jonathan Osorio with a through ball in the 42nd minute, and Osorio converted the opportunity to tie the game. Both sides had chances, with each team recording four shots on target. 

This one was a very even contest and the stats reflect that. Mexico would have been the favorites coming in, but Canada has been tremendous in World Cup qualifying thus far. If Canada is able to hold their current position, they would qualify for just their second ever men’s World Cup. 

El Salvador 1-0 Panama

Panama was one of the top CONCACAF teams in September, so this home win for El Salvador is an impressive result. The win brings El Salvador up to fifth place in the group, level on points with Panama in fourth.

Panama had 54% possession in this one, but El Salvador made the most of their share of the ball. They had ten shots, four of which found the target. It was Enrico Hernández who ultimately made the difference for El Salvador. The 20-year-old fired home his own rebound in the 37th minute to secure the three points. 

Outside of a 3-0 defeat on the road against Canada, El Salvador have given a good account of themselves in World Cup qualifying. They will look to use this result as a launch pad to continue contending for a qualification spot. On the other hand, Panama will try to shake the defeat off and refind the form they had in September. Both teams have tough matches remaining in October with El Salvador playing Mexico and Panama facing the United States and Canada. It will be intriguing to see which of these two teams is ahead when the window has concluded.

Final Thoughts on CONCACAF

The three North American teams remain in the automatic qualification spots after Matchday 4. The United States seem to be hitting its stride with Ricardo Pepi in the lineup. Mexico has matched them with two wins and two draws in four games. The top two dogs in CONCACAF do not play until November, so they each have two more opportunities to pick up points before then. 

Canada is two points back of their neighbors to the north and the south. However, the fact that they remain unbeaten after having played both of them is very impressive.

With two more games coming on Sunday and Wednesday every single team in the group has a chance to change their situation before the window is up.

Featured image courtesy of @USMNT.

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