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#2017: Visitors May Be Favored at Gold Cup (fwd)


Wednesday January 26 12:18 AM ET 
 Visitors May Be Favored at Gold Cup

 MIAMI (AP) - Cobi Jones will be in familiar surroundings when the
United States opens CONCACAF Gold Cup against Haiti on Feb. 12 in the
Orange Bowl. One of the veteran members of the U.S. squad, Jones makes
frequent visits to Miami, calling it a ``second home.''
 But Jones and his teammates probably won't have home-field support when
they play Haiti in the opener of the biennial championship of soccer's
North and Central American and Caribbean region. Haiti figures to have
the majority of the followers in the 75,000-seat stadium along with
 Colombia, which plays Jamaica in the other half of the doubleheader.
 ``This is nothing new to us,'' U.S. defender Carlos Llamosa said.
``Last week, we played Iran in the Rose Bowl and the majority of the
fans favored Iran.'' The U.S. team could use the lack of crowd support
as a motivational tool in the 12-nation tournament, which also will
feature first-round matches in San Diego. Defending champion Mexico in
the favorite. Colombia, Honduras and Jamaica are in Group
 A; Haiti, Peru and the United States in Group B; Guatemala, Mexico and
Trinidad and Tobago in Group C; and Canada, Costa Rica and World Cup
co-host South Korea in Group D.

 The top two finishers in each group advance to the quarterfinals Feb.
19 and 20. The semifinals will be on Feb. 23 and 24 in San Diego and Los
Angeles, and the final will be in Los Angeles on Feb. 27.
 In addition to its opener, the U.S. team's other first-round match will
be against Peru on Feb. 16 in the Orange Bowl. ``This is an important
tournament,'' Jones said. ``It's sort of the Euro 2000 for North
 American teams.''
 For coaches such as Jamaica's Rene Simoes, who led the Caribbean nation
to a 1998 World Cup berth, the challenge is to assemble top players from
their clubs in Europe. ``We, as coaches, experience a very complicated
situation trying to bring back players from overseas,'' Simoes said.
``Some of these club coaches don't understand that this is an
 important event.''