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2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, Group B, round 2 round-up: Underdogs stand tall

Martinique and Nicaragua were expected to lose against USA and Panama - and they did. But they didn't go quietly.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

For a competition to be interesting, it is usually required to competitive. No one but the die-hard fans of the winner likes a walkover. One of the persistent problems with Gold Cup as a competition is that the standard of play in CONCACAF is a little lop-sided, and there are a few too many games played without much suspense with regard to the outcome.

Since 1991, when CONCACAF decided to reinvent its regional championship as "Gold Cup", the tournament has been won by either Mexico or the USA - except for that one time (2000) when Canada snatched the title. This is generally good news for Mexico or USA fans, but it doesn't help the tournament get a lot of respect, even from fans of the teams that usually win it.

So it's not a bad thing when games are a little more competitive than usual in a tournament so lightweight that the favorites don't even bother to send their best teams.

Over in Group A, Canada is making a bigger noise than expected, and should now be considered among the favorites to make the quarterfinals. In Group B, Panama and the USA remain firm favorites to top the group, but both got a scare in the second round of games from teams each was expected to roll over without great effort.

Nicaragua 1-2 Panama

In fairness to Nicaragua, Panama likely did not expect this game to be easy. In this year's Copa Centroamericana, Nicaragua finished fifth out of six teams, beating only Belize. But all three of its losses were by one goal, and it played Costa Rica to a scoreless draw. The team is not a pushover.

Panama might have been expecting a challenge, but it was surely not expecting to be a goal down in the second half. Nicaragua scored first, thanks to Carlos Chavarria, in the 49th minute.

The lead didn't last long. Ismael Diaz equalized in the 50th minute, and Gabriel Torres had the match-winner seven minutes later.

Panama will be relieved to have avoided the upset, and also pleased to see Diaz on the scoresheet. The 20-year-old forward was a highly-rated youth international and won his first cap for the senior national team in 2014. There are high hopes for his progress, and Panama rather urgently needs some young scoring talents to establish themselves in the men's national team.

For Nicaragua, the second consecutive loss of its group stage likely signals its exit from the tournament. But it has at least scored its first goal at Gold Cup, and served notice to the USA that is it not to be taken lightly in the final round of Group B games.

Martinique 2-3 USA

A scoreless first half was a disappointment for the home team, but all was going well for the USA by the middle of the second half. Omar Gonzalez opened the scoring in the 54th minute and Jordan Morris added a second 10 minutes later.

Two goals up with about 25 minutes to play, the question was mostly how many more the American would put past Martinique. Then Kevin Parsemain scored in the 66th minute. And he scored again - fortuitously - in the 75th.

The tie was quickly broken: Morris scored in the 76th minute to re-assert the home team's lead.

Martinique will be disappointed to have lost what would have been a sensational - and not undeserved - point. The USA will hope to be able to quickly forget this performance with a better showing against Nicaragua.

Group B is back in action on July 15 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.