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CONCACAF 2017: Five of the Best Caribbean Stories
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Jamaica players (pictured) celebrate after scoring against the USA in the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup final. (Photo: Mexsport)

As 2018 quickly approaches, CONCACAF.com is taking a look back at the most interesting items from throughout the Confederation over the previous 12 months.

CONCACAF 2017: FIVE OF THE BEST CARIBBEAN STORIES

#1: Jamaica reaches second consecutive CONCACAF Gold Cup final

No team from the Caribbean had ever advanced to a CONCACAF Gold Cup final until Jamaica did it two years ago, falling to Mexico, 3-1.  While many would have considered the Reggae Boyz’s chances of reaching a second straight decider to be unlikely, they once again earned the opportunity to lift the trophy in 2017, only to suffer a 2-1 setback to the United States.  Jamaica posted an overall 3W-2D-1L record, which was highlighted by a 1-0 win over Mexico in the semifinals as Kemar Lawrence (88’) struck for the only goal off a brilliant free kick.  Goalkeeper Andre Blake won Golden Glove honors, and joined teammates Lawrence and Jermaine Taylor – both defenders – in the Best XI.

#2: Trinidad & Tobago win over U.S. prevents Americans from qualifying for 2018 FIFA World Cup

On the last day of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the visiting United States would have booked its ticket to Russia with a win over last-place Trinidad & Tobago at Ato Boldon Stadium.  A draw would most likely have sufficed.

The Americans, however, were denied a berth for the first time since 1986 as the Soca Warriors -- previously eliminated from contention and losers of six straight Hexagonal matches – pulled off an improbable 2-1 upset.  An own-goal by Omar Gonzalez (17’) and a stunning strike from Alvin Jones (37’) was what T&T needed to thwart the same team that quashed its bid for a berth in the 1990 World Cup.

That same evening, Panama topped Costa Rica (2-1) and Honduras tripped up first-place Mexico (3-2), checking off two additional items that combined to end the USA’s World Cup dream.

#3: Curacao wins Scotiabank CFU Men’s Caribbean Cup Championship

Elson Hooi scored two goals and Curacao captured its first-ever Scotiabank CFU Men’s Caribbean Cup title with 2-1 win over defending champion Jamaica in the 2016/17 final on June 25, 2017, at the Stade Pierre-Aliker in Fort-de-France, Martinique.  Curacao, which became just the sixth different nation to lift the trophy in the 18 times it has been on offer, completed the competition with an overall record of 7-0-1 (25GF, 8 GA).  Curacaoans Gino van Kessel and Feliticiano Zschusschen finished as the tournament’s joint-top scorers with seven goals each.

#4: Jamaica GK Blake makes large impression

The top players always play their best on the biggest stage.  Goalkeeper Andre Blake capitalized on his moment in 2017, successfully taking on a key role in Jamaica’s second straight runner-up finish in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.  Supreme shot-stopping abilities – plus acrobatic denials -- earned him the competition’s Golden Glove award and a spot in the Best XI.  Blake also appeared in 26 games for the Philadelphia Union during the 2017 Major League Soccer regular season, conceding 34 goals.  The 27-year-old finished third in voting for the 2017 CONCACAF Player of the Year.

#5: Haiti’s Wilde-Donald Guerrier excels in Europe

One of the more underrated stories of 2017 has been the impact of Haiti international Wilde-Donald Guerrier in Europe.  In July, after a year with Turkey’s Alanyaspor, the 28-year-old midfielder signed with Qarabag, which became the first team from Azerbaijan to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage.  Guerrier played in 12 games, scoring two goals – one in each of the leg of second qualifying round victories over Georgia’s Samtredia (1st leg: 5-0 home win; 2nd leg: 1-0 away win).  In group stage, Guerrier has competed against the likes of Atletico Madrid, Chelsea and Roma.

HONORABLE MENTION

- Cibao FC won the 2017 Caribbean Club Championship title to become the first team from the Dominican Republic to qualify for the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League.

- Curacao international goalkeeper Eloy Room helped lead Vitesse to the 2017 Dutch Cup title, playing all 90 minutes in a 2-0 win over AZ Alkmaar in the final.

 
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