The first 8 of 14 games are under our belt, the CONCACAF group is heavily contested and as the 8 teams battle out the three qualifying spots (and one playoff spot) there is a lot still to be played for. Here is what we know so far.
Canada is for real....okay little brother go on with your bad selves. The Canadian squad that has only qualified for the world cup once in 1986, is looking positioned to qualify. Upon closing out the first 8 games undefeated, it's possible Canada will be in the next 2 world cups with a continuation of form. Closing possibly the worst refereed game in international football the Canadians saw 2 goals enough to carry them over Mexico for that important 3 points and in pole position for the league.
In second place in the US find themselves still in high water. Not quite neck deep but at least knee deep the US see themselves only 1 point above 4th. A lack of consistency on the road is a real concern for this Mexico team.
Mexico is sitting in third, only goal difference sets them apart from the 4th place Panama. A lack of consistency on the road is a real concern for this Mexico team. Conceding goals and playing the long ball is not working out. It is also noteworthy the lack of class at the end of the Canada game, and the reckless play is creating an identity for modern day Mexican soccer that is troublesome. Frankly the character of the team is clearly showing evidence that the talent is not there. This is not a 9th ranked team in the world, probably not in the top 32 at the moment.
Panama are holding on for the US or Mexico to falter. Scraping for life with a second half come back against El Salvadore, Panama have shown they have the grit to win on the road in tough conditions. It will likely be up to Panama to settle the score on the road against Mexico on February 2nd.
The introduction of VAR is needed quickly in the CONCACAF games. The protection of these players is critical, the international stage is great to watch, but does not compare to the big leagues. Unfortunately, the refs are not doing enough to keep players like Pulisic or Davies safe. Both the quality of officiating needs to be evaluated as well as the ability to mitigate some of the dangerous play going on with chippy tackles, and...the just trying to fight nature of a few of these teams right now.