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CONCACAF World Cup qualifying: Third Round Matchday 5 recap

The second Matchday of the October CONCACAF World Cup qualifying window is now behind us. The players representing the eight remaining CONCACAF teams will hit the field just once more in October before returning to their respective club teams.

Five games into the Octagonal, things are starting to take shape at the top and bottom of the table. As always in World Cup qualifying, the next match is the most important one. CONCACAF teams will have one final opportunity to pick up points on Wednesday before this window closes. 

Before that, here is a look back at the results from a busy Matchday 5 (stats from FotMob).

Costa Rica 2-1 El Salvador

At home in San José’s Estadio Nacional, Costa Rica managed to pick up its first win of the Octagonal. As a result, they leapfrogged El Salvador and moved up to fifth place in the group. 

Despite falling short in the end, it was El Salvador who drew first blood in this one. Jairo Henríquez scored a great goal for the visitors in the 12th minute. He found the back of the net from outside of the box with a strike that skipped past Kaylor Navas into the bottom left corner. 

Although Costa Rica upped the pressure for the rest of the first half, it was not until the second that they were able to respond. A close-ranged header from Bryan Ruiz in the 52nd minute brought Costa Rica level. They quickly followed up by winning a penalty from an incident in the 56th minute. The chance was converted in the 58th minute by Celso Borges, who gave Costa Rica the lead that they needed. Despite going down to ten men before the end, El Salvador very nearly found the equalizer in stoppage time. Kaylor Navas pulled out one last great save on an Alex Roldan strike from distance from to secure the three points.

Costa Rica moved up to fifth place with the win, while El Salvador was bumped down to sixth. Both teams are still in the mix after five matches, which is why this victory was especially important for Costa Rica.

Jamaica 0-0 Canada

Despite ultimately ending in a 0-0 draw, this was a back and forth game in which both teams had plenty of chances. Jamaica badly needed a win to lift themselves off the bottom of the table. Still, a draw is better than a loss. The Reggae Boyz will look to build on the positives from this one next time out. With this result, Canada has drawn four of their five matches in the third round. This currently has them in fourth place in the Octagonal.

Jamaica’s best chance in this one came in the 50th minute when Kemar Lawrence’s free kick was headed off the post by Junior Flemmings. Canada responded with a big chance of their own in the 60th minute. Alphonso Davies burst into the box and squared the ball for Liam Millar, who was denied by Andre Blake despite seemingly having much of the net to shoot at.

Canada had more of the possession and two shots on target to Jamaica’s one. However, this game really could have gone either way. The three points were there for the taking, but neither team was quite able to claim them.

Panama 1-0 United States

Four years to the day after a certain USMNT road loss to a smaller CONCACAF team, it was Panama who emerged victorious at home in Panama City. This was a huge win for the home side, as it bumped them back up into the top three of the Octagonal. 

This was a game that was decided by one specific moment. This moment came in the 54th minute when a Panamanian corner delivered by Eric Davis was headed by Anibal Godoy (and perhaps Gyasi Zardes) past Matt Turner and into the net. The USMNT never looked particularly likely to find an equalizer. Panama deserved the three points for their performance. The celebratory atmosphere inside the stadium when the final whistle blew reflected the importance of the three points to Panama’s qualification hopes.

With the win, Panama moved to third in the group with eight points. The United States, also with eight points, dropped from first to second. The USA is still in a strong position five games into the third round. However, zero shots on target against Panama is not a particularly impressive performance. The onus is on Gregg Berhalter to set up his team with a consistent attacking plan going forward.

Mexico 3-0 Honduras

Playing at home in the Estadio Azteca, Mexico picked up the most comfortable victory of Matchday 5. Honduras had some positive moments, but Mexico was the more dangerous side from the gun in this one.

Sebastián Córdova opened the scoring in the 18th minute after a crazy sequence in which Mexico had two big chances just prior to the goal. Mexico had plenty more chances in the first half, but the 1-0 score held to the break. The second half started poorly for Honduras, with captain Maynor Figueroa being sent off for a heavy tackle on Raúl Jiménez. The dam finally broke in the 76th minute, when Rogelio Funes Mori scored after yet another netmouth scramble. Mexico made it 3-0 in the 86th minute. Chucky Lozano and Orbelín Pineda combined for a nice bit of play which ended with Lozano finding the back of the net from just inside the 18 yard box.

The win placed Mexico back atop the group, three points clear of the United States and Panama. Honduras remains winless back in seventh place.

Final Thoughts on CONCACAF

After five matches, Mexico and Canada are the only remaining unbeaten teams. The United States has shown flashes of dominance but also a fair amount of inconsistency. 

Panama and Costa Rica have both been solid. El Salvador, Honduras and Jamaica are the three teams who need to pick it up if they want to stay in contention. 

There is a lot of potential for movement on the final CONCACAF matchday in October. The United States plays Costa Rica, Canada hosts Panama, Honduras faces off with Jamaica and El Salvador gets Mexico. 

Depending on how those matches go, the Octagonal could look very different after Matchday 6.

Featured image courtesy of @miseleccionmx.

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