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Concacaf World Cup Qualifying Preview: Canada hosts Costa Rica, Panama faces Honduras, and more


Concacaf World Cup Qualifying is back on Friday night with several national teams looking to keep pace in the race for the top three spots.

Third-place Canada hosts fifth-place Costa Rica in Edmonton on Friday night, looking to stay unbeaten after a 2-0-4 start. John Herdman’s side last defeated Costa Rica 2-0 in the Gold Cup this summer, using goals from Junior Hoilett and Stephen Eustáquio to grab three points.

The Ticos have only won one of their opening six qualifiers in the octagonal round, last falling 2-1 on the road against the U.S. men’s national team. Veteran goalkeeper Keylor Navas will not play a part in Friday’s matchup, meaning Leonel Moreira will step into his regular role as Navas’ replacement. Joel Campbell, Celso Borges and Bryan Ruiz headline the attacking talent for Los Ticos on the road.

Last-place Honduras will try to claim its first win of the octagonal round, welcoming fourth-place Panama to San Pedro Sula. Hernan Dario Gomez, who helped lead Panama to the 2018 World Cup, has taken over as Honduras head coach and will look to lead his team to a major bounce-back result to start November’s pair of matches. Panama has failed to win any of its last four meetings with Honduras, last winning on the road in 2016.

El Salvador hosts Jamaica in the final match of the night, with both national teams level at five points apiece. The hosts have failed to defeat the Reggae Boyz in their last three head-to-head meetings, but will be confident in getting after the visitors, who have also disappointed so far through six matches. Michail Antonio and Leon Bailey are back for Jamaica this window and will be the go-to targets for Theodore Whitmore’s offense.

Here is a closer look at Friday’s Concacaf qualifying matchups:

Canada vs. Costa Rica

9:05 p.m. ET, Paramount +

Four points separate Canada and Costa Rica in the octagonal round standings with both teams hoping to start this month’s short schedule with a victory.

Canada has drawn four of its opening six qualifiers this fall, last defeating Panama 4-1 at home thanks to a stellar outing from Alphonso Davies. The Bayern Munich standout continues to be one of the dangerous attacking threats in the region, and the Edmonton-raised star will have the added motivation of playing in front of his hometown fans.

Tajon Buchanan and Jonathan David are also dangerous attacking threats for the Canadians. John Herdman could also call on a new face in Genk striker Ike Ugbo, who made the switch from England to Canada on the national team level.

Costa Rica will not have veteran goalkeeper Keylor Navas in goal for Friday’s match, likely forcing Leonel Moreira into the starting role in Edmonton. Moreira played the second half of last month’s 2-1 loss to the USMNT and is capable of keeping Canada at bay. The returns of Joel Campbell and Jose Ortiz should help the Ticos in the final third, while Bryan Ruiz is also an option to start.

Honduras vs. Panama

8:05 P.M. ET, Paramount +, Universo

Honduras hasn’t had much go right for it in qualifying so far, but will hope a win Friday can spark a turnaround in the standings. Hernan Dario Gomez comes in as the national team’s new head coach, taking over for Fabian Coito, who failed to earn a win in the octagonal round so far. Romell Quioto’s return from injury should provide a major boost in the final third while Alberth Elis and Anthony Lozano are also talented attacking players in the squad.

Panama’s last road win over Honduras was in November 2016 and the visitors will try to find a similar result on Friday night. Thomas Christiansen’s side have impressed so far through six matches, knocking off the USMNT in October and also stealing one point against Mexico. The hosts don’t pose a dominant attack, but will work hard for one another in hopes of claiming another three points. Rolando Blackburn and Harold Cummings are veteran figures both on and off the field for Panama.

El Salvador vs. Jamaica

9 P.M. ET, Paramount +, Universo

Jamaica ended October’s window with an important first win of the octagonal round and will look to carry that confidence over into Friday’s showdown in El Salvador.

Theodore Whitmore finally has Michail Antonio and Leon Bailey ready to go after both players have been allowed to travel from England. The Premier League tandem provides an extra sense of creativity to the Reggae Boyz’s attack and should find some success against El Salvador on Friday. Andre Blake remains one of the top goalkeepers in Concacaf while Adrian Mariappa is a veteran figure in the backline.

El Salvador has lost its last two qualifying matches, leaving Hugo Perez’s team trailing Jamaica on goal difference. El Salvador has struggled to score regularly, a theme that will have to change if a serious move for the top three is going to happen. Joaquin Rivas and Amando Moreno have had strong seasons in the USL (11 combined goals), but now need to prove their worth on the international stage.

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