With summer’s Gold Cup now in the past, and the region’s World Cup Qualifying into its final round, there’s been a lot of focus on the collective strength of Central, North America, and Caribbean nations. Since the start of 2021 we’ve also seen some impressive individual performers from the region. Drawing from players who’ve lit up the stages across the world, here’s our picks for the best performers for the year so far.
Keylor Navas – Costa Rica’s custodian may feel a little hard done by at club level with PSG signing a potential usurper to his number 1 spot, but at least for his nation he’s undeniable. Make no mistake however, when Navas takes his place on the field for the Parisians (which is still often) he reminds us of what a juggernaut he is in goal. During the 2020/21 Ligue 1 season, he picked up 19 clean sheets and led the league with a 81% save percentage. The three-time Champions League winner continues to come up with the goods.
Andre Blake – The Jamaican skipper has consistently been one of the best goalkeepers in the MLS for the last five seasons or so, which continues to be the case in 2021. Eleven clean sheets and a 78.1% save percentage for 2021, as well as a 2021 MLS All-star team selection shows Blake’s pedigree and notoriety in North America. Blake plays an important role in keeping his Philadelphia Union in a play-off position in the MLS this season. Also, despite Jamaica’s poor form recently, Blake himself has been in decent form; with back-to-back clean sheets in his last two games for the Boyz.
Ethan Pinnock – Brentford has been the talk of the town since their debut in the Premier League this season and a key cog in that defense has been the Jamaican international. Brentford has 12 points from 9 games with three losses so far and only three teams have conceded less than them. Their memorable results include an opening day 2-0 win over Arsenal and a 3-3 draw with Liverpool – games where Pinnock shined in particular.
Alphonso Davies – This speedy left-sided player from Alberta, Canada is one of the showpiece players of the region as a part of an all-conquering Bayern Munich team. The 20-year-old has been a regular starter in the Bavarian club’s repeated successes, but not as a passenger – Davies is an active part of Bayern’s game play as evidenced by his high goal involvement despite playing as a left back. He’s scored 5 goals and added 12 assists throughout 2021 which includes helping Canada to get into the final round of World Cup Qualification.
Matt Turner – The USA has had a number of great goalkeepers over the years and these days there is still a duel for a place between the posts. Currently the battle is between Zack Steffen and Matt Turner – the latter is currently winning, in more ways than one. Turner was the keeper of choice in a much-changed USA squad that managed to win the 2021 Gold Cup with Turner pulling out 5 clean sheets for the competition. In fact, he and the US only conceded once all tournament. And Turner continues to do similarly good things with his New England Revolution team, where the Revs sit atop the Eastern Conference in the MLS. His 73.5% save percentage and 11 clean sheets is a big part of that good run.
Brenden Aaronson – This young American’s career is currently on the rise and so too are his numbers. Aaronson has been steadily piling up goals and assists from his attacking midfield role for both club and country. One can be forgiven for not being quite so familiar with Aaronson because he is still growing his reputation in Europe with Red Bull Salzburg and on the way to doing the same with the national team. Fourteen goals and twelve assists in 2021 is enough to make a few people take notice, and his ceiling is still yet to be found.
Hirving Lozano – Mexican attacker, “Chucky” Lozano is one of the usual names on El Tri and Italian club Napoli’s starting eleven in the Serie A. The versatile attacker has managed to pick up numbers wherever he’s deployed, amassing 17 goals and 4 assists this calendar year. A head injury early in the first Gold Cup game kept him from adding to those but his good form means since his return to the squad he’s continuing to make a difference for his country as well.
Cyle Larin – Beşiktaş forward, Cyle Larin has been racking up a lot of goals throughout 2021 in the Turkish domestic league and in international games. The Canadian has 35 goals + assists since January, 12 of those have come from his international involvement, which includes the first round of World Cup Qualification for Qatar 2022.
Jonathan David – At just 21 years of age, Jonathan David has had a meteoric rise in the last two years. On the back of impressive performances at club level for Genk two seasons ago, David bagged the Golden Boot at the 2019 Gold Cup then sealed a move to Lille for the 2020/21 season. He has been on fire in 2021, scoring 11 goals in the lead up to winning the Ligue 1 title. That form has carried over to this season where he’s already up to 7 goals from 11 games. While he wasn’t a part of the Gold Cup in the summer, he’s still managed 6 goals and 5 assists in 10 international appearances this year.
Michail Antonio – The Jamaican international has had the brightest start of any CONCACAF player this season with 6 goals and 4 assists in the first 8 games of the season. His West Ham United team are back in Europe following 15 goal creations in 26 games last season and his early form looks set to keep them there after this season. Despite featuring a lot less at the international level compared to his counterparts on this list, his superb club form means he’s easily top of the pile among CONCACAF players right now.