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W2W4: U.S. and Mexico to advance from Gold Cup quarterfinals

W2W4: U.S. and Mexico to advance from Gold Cup quarterfinals
From ESPN - July 17, 2017

The Gold Cup's 12-team field has been cut down to the quarterfinals; it is now the win-or-go-home thrills of the knockout stage.

But which teams will take the next step toward the July 26 final in Santa Clara? Here's what to watch for.

Costa Rica vs. Panama, Wednesday (6 p.m. EST -- Philadelphia)

We start with the most intriguing match. Both have played reasonably well -- each can feel aggrieved to have drawn the other so early in the knockout rounds -- but karma may be paying Costa Rica back for its easy group. Outside of the hot-tempered opener against Honduras, Costa Rica hardly had to break a sweat on its way to a first-place finish in Group A.

Like the U.S. and Mexico, Costa Rica left some of its biggest stars off the roster (like Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas) but unlike those other regional heavyweights, Los Ticos have not looked any worse for their high-profile absences. Being able to bring a red-hot Rodney Wallace off your B-team bench speaks well to one's depth.

Panama, meanwhile, was just minutes away from topping Group B before American defender Matt Miazga scored late against Nicaragua. Los Canaleros have not been perfect but as the USMNT learned in the group-stage opener, this is a resilient squad and a tough out.

Prediction: Costa Rica 1-0 Panama

United States vs. El Salvador, Wednesday (9 p.m. EST -- Philadelphia)

Despite an underwhelming performance to this point, the United States has been rewarded with perhaps the tamest opponent left. The Americans needed to scramble to avoid embarrassment against Martinique -- who will be missed -- and labored much more than anticipated to score the three goals necessary vs. Nicaragua to win Group B.

Yet reinforcements like veterans Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Michael Bradley are on the way. And even the JV squad would have fancied its chances against the Salvadorans.

El Salvador has just about played to type by sneaking into the quarterfinals. It lost to Mexico, beat Curacao and fought Jamaica to a draw. With backs against the wall headed into the Jamaica match, this solid, unspectacular crew at least proved that it is not a pushover. Still, there's a reason El Salvador is currently ranked 103rd in the FIFA rankings. Barring a disaster, the U.S. should move on comfortably.

Prediction: United States 3-1 El Salvador

Jamaica vs. Canada, Thursday (7.30 p.m. EST -- Glendale, Ariz.)

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