GC Daily: Linda puts Puerto Rico on the brink

Your Wednesday morning, latest news, thoughts, poems, analysis, and quotes from the W Gold Cup

GC Daily: Linda puts Puerto Rico on the brink
Linda Caicedo shows off her classic heart celebration after scoring | Courtesy of Concacaf

Note: Welcome to Gold Cup Daily. A quick snapshot of the tournament's action from the previous day, some elongated thoughts, and the key details of group tables and next matches.

Tuesday's Group B results:
Colombia 2-0 Puerto Rico
Brazil 5-0 Panama

Is this the end of Puerto Rico's Gold Cup journey?

A typically calm and proud head coach Nat Gonzalez, premised his evaluation of Tuesday night's defeat to Colombia by saying he wasn't trying to make "an excuse" for his team.

But still, for the plucky underdogs playing in their first-ever tournament, the squad is running on empty.

"With how fast-paced that Colombia played tonight. It's hard to play four games in 10 days at this level. "I thought tonight you could see we were slower at the beginning. " Gonzalez explained.

"Colombia's a world-class team, I mean, they moved the ball quickly, they had very distinct and precise movements off the ball.

"For us, we had a hard time reacting because of the way we had to defend we're trying to cut out a lot of their movements and their passing lanes and we were frustrated I think in the first half. Second half, they came out and they solved some of our traps."

Puerto Rico's future now hangs in the balance on Wednesday. They will need either Paraguay to lose to El Salvador or Costa Rica to lose to Canada by three goals or more.

Nat Gonzalez PR head coach

Colombia's win was decided in the opening periods of each half—a common theme at this tournament, especially when more experienced teams go up against greener opponents.

Las Cafeteras' most senior player Catalina Usme opened the scoring in the 16th minute.

The 34-year-old forward's routine quick-finish in the box almost looked as if it were on 1.5x normal speed, due to her movements being so ahead of the opponent's.

Then, Linda Caicedo delivered the killer blow eight minutes into the second half.

It was more magic from the Real Madrid forward, who, if she didn't play with such a big smile on her face, would be identified as a bully.

She took multiple players on, and skipped past them, slaloming into between the pockets of space and outstretched limbs, as if they were cones. Small obstacles. Then buried the shot high in the net with aplomb. The 18-year-old appears incapable of scoring a bad goal.

"Those special players make a difference," Gonzalez said about Caicedo.

Linda Caicedo skipped between Puerto Rico defenders with ease for Colombia's second goal | Courtesy of Concacaf

Colombia showed flashes of class and forced six saves from Puerto Rico's Sydney Martinez, including a brilliant diving catch from a headed effort by Marcela Restrepo.

Rather than force the issue, the South Americans mostly wore down their opponent with control.

Despite 550 passes being completed, with 73% possession, Colombia attempted just 11 shots (1.48 xG). One for every 50 completed passes. It was the same amount of shots taken in the 1-0 defeat to Brazil and 17 fewer than against Panama.

Looking ahead, the win by two goals means that Colombia will now likely meet the United States in the Quarterfinals on Sunday. A mouth-watering tie.

Courtesy of Concacaf

"I dedicate this goal to my mother"

In a rematch of the 2023 World Cup Group Stage meeting between Brazil and Panama, it was an almost identical outcome.

But sometimes there's plenty of extra meaning in a routine drubbing. Especially after the Selecao won their opening two matches by 1-0 scorelines.

Brazil midfielder Bia Menezes scored her first-ever international goal, on her second cap, and fittingly dedicated the header to her later mother.

"It is difficult to find words because it is a moment that I dreamed of from when I was very young. I am very happy. I dedicate this goal to my mother who is there in heaven...a little star," the 27-year-old said, while looking to the sky, talking to the Selecao's social media channels.

Struggling for form in the English Women's Super League, Manchester United's Geyse let off some steam by bagging an emphatic brace, her first goals of the Gold Cup.

The forward's first goal was a thumping volley from nearly 25 yards out. Geyse celebrated with such fervor you tell how much it meant.

Brazil head coach Arthur Elias was also pleased with the involvement of many different squad members.

The Selecao have now used 22 of their 23 players while trying out different formations, and combinations and keeping players rested.

For Panama, the 5-0 defeat compounded a tournament that was ultimately won and lost in the Puerto Rico defeat.

It's hard to judge the Central Americans too harshly when coming up against the best two sides in South America and in only their second-ever tournament after last summer's World Cup.

Head coach Nacho Quintana lamented his team's performance at the tournament as a whole, admitting that he had prepared for his team to have a longer stay at the Gold Cup.

The root cause of Panama's issues though, he believes lies in the lack of infrastructure and professional domestic women's league in the country.

"I think that we have to work a lot internally, we have to work a lot in the league, we have to try to make the league closer and closer to what they are going to face when they come here. We could already see that from the physical preparation, and the tactical preparation as well," Quintana said.

The Panama head coach was more complimentary of the federation and their increasing support over the past few years.

He mentioned the quality of the pitches they train on in Panama and a nutritionist they had on staff for this tournament. However, the investment has to continue, with Quintana picking out a team full-time team psychologist as the next hire and development of the youth teams.

Considering Quintana only recently renewed his contract with Panama it would be surprising to see any changes at the federation. But, it's abundantly clear, the performance at the Gold Cup did not meet Panamanian expectations.

NEXT: Wed. 28 Feb. Group C fixtures:
Canada v Costa Rica | 6:00 p.m. ET
El Salvador v Paraguay | 8:00 p.m. ET