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Three things we learned from USA’s victory over Cuba

Jul 13, 2013, 6:53 PM EDT

Kyle Beckerman, Chris Wondolowski, Edgar Castillo AP

You pulled through guys… but you had us scared for a moment there.

Following the U.S. national team’s 4-1 comeback victory against Cuba on Saturday night, there are plenty of interesting narratives emanating from another comfortable victory (in the end) for Jurgen Klinsmann’s team.

Here we highlight three things we learned from the win over Cuba that saw the U.S. seal their passage to the Gold Cup quarterfinals.

Let’s break it down.

1. Chris Wondolowski must play more for the U.S. national team

Okay, so he’s scored six goals in his last three games against a weakened Guatemala outfit, Belize and Cuba… I can hear you haters already, but listen up. Wondolowski is a pure finisher, and his stock has risen dramatically during this Gold Cup. Arriving on the pitch during the second half, Wondo immediately made several intelligent runs in behind Cuba’s defense that weren’t spotted by the U.S. midfielders. Then he pounced after two fantastic passes from Kyle Beckerman and Edgar Castillo and finished with his usual aplomb. He did more during his short time in the pitch than Herculez Gomez did in the whole first half. He needs to play a bigger role in the World Cup qualifiers and the World Cup. Who would be better coming off the bench with the US down 1-0 with 10 minutes to go in Brazil next year? Nobody. The USA need a super-sub and an impact player. “Wondowlowski” is your man.

2. Defensive issues continue to crop up

Yes the USA are scoring bucket loads of goals – 16 in their last three games if your counting – but defensive mistakes are still happening. For Cuba’s opener Castillo got sucked into the play and exposed the whole U.S. backline by getting beaten to the byline. Then captain Oguchi Onyewu was slow to react and let Jose Alfonso nip in front of him to score. Sluggish defending cropped up, and these defenders playing this way means they’re unlikely to oust any of the USMNT regulars. For large spells the U.S. dominated Cuba, but defenders need to stay switched on. Look what happened away to Jamaica last month when Jermaine Beckford scored from a set piece to equalize late. Silly mistakes will cost the US if they keep cropping up between now and World Cup 2014.

3. Klinsmann is getting incredibly good at altering the approach mid-game

Poor ball retention, lethargic movement and a lack of pace all played a part in the USA’s pedestrian first half display. But whatever Klinsmann said to his side at halftime obviously worked as they came out rejuvenated and finished off the Cubans. The speed of play increased dramatically in the second period and the US were able to get the ball wide quicker. Brek Shea disappointed out on the left and his replacement Jose Torres offered much more drifting inside. Kyle Beckerman and Stuart Holden were more positive when in possession and Castillo and Joe Corona kept driving forward at every opportunity. Klinsmann must’ve urged his side to attack during his locker room chat at the half. The U.S. were more direct and the movement was phenomenal between Donovan and the midfielders in the second half. Cuba couldn’t handle it. More of the same please, Jurgen.

More: USA beat Cuba 4-1 to make Gold Cup quarterfinals

More: Wondolowski reveals hidden “W” in jersey, as misspelling does the trick again

  1. bigdinla - Jul 13, 2013 at 7:47 PM

    Gooch is done!

    • Joe Prince-Wright - Jul 13, 2013 at 9:11 PM

      Do you think that was a PK against him in the second half?

      Think Cuba can feel hard done by on that play, he lunged in horrendously and just touched the ball… after most of the Cuban striker had felt the wrath of Gooch’s studs first!

      • joeyt360 - Jul 14, 2013 at 12:39 PM

        Absolutely not, that was an top notch tackle (or else amazing luck). Gooch plucked the ball away cleanly, while the player was already falling, and best I can tell made basically no contact with the defender.

  2. ethancrowley - Jul 13, 2013 at 7:51 PM

    “Wonolowski is a pure finisher”

    No one in the world can spell his name right.

    • Joe Prince-Wright - Jul 13, 2013 at 9:09 PM

      If we take away the “D” does he keep scoring loads of goals? Or does that just work with the “W”? Ha.

  3. mdac1012 - Jul 13, 2013 at 8:02 PM

    When unmarked in the box, against dreadful teams, Wondo is a world beater, I think we knew that already. He probably is playing his way onto the main roster, but more importantly for him, this tournament might get him going in MLS.

    A super sub? Who is he replacing in a big game in a big spot? Dempsey? Jozy? LD?

    I like Wondo, he seems like a good guy, he is a star in MLS and one of the faces of the league, which is not a bad way to make a living. But lets not turn him into a world class player all of a sudden because of these last two games.

  4. augustusjack - Jul 14, 2013 at 1:31 AM

    No, Wondo shouldn’t play more. He’s the ultimate poacher, but he can’t create a thing for himself. He won’t beat out Jozy for target forward, so why take up a roster spot? Plenty of others already rostered can clean up pretty shiny leavings while they do their normal work.

  5. mrstev - Jul 14, 2013 at 2:53 AM

    You db’s don’t have a clue. This guy has scored more goals in the last 3 years in mls than anyone ever has. So are you saying that mls players aren’t good enough to hack it at the international level? You might want to rethink that notion. Based on minutes played, his strike rate is far, far superior to Altidore, who has underperformed for USMNT for years now.
    “Pretty shiny leavings”? Dude, you obviously haven’t been paying attention, or you are just plain ignorant.
    Give credit where credit is due. Wondo knows where the back of the net is. All I’ve heard about Altidore over the years is how great his “hold-up” play is. Who gives a crap…last I checked, strikers are judged on goals. You going to knock a guy because he knows how to find space and put himself in positions to score?
    And yes, with the game on the line in the last 20 minutes, I would much rather have Wondo on the pitch than Jozy. Hands down. No question.

    • mdac1012 - Jul 14, 2013 at 6:42 AM

      I am rooting for Wondo, I hope he scores 3 goals a game and the U.S. wins this tournament going away, but if you are comparing the skill set of Wondo to Jozy , you need to get your eyes checked.

      The announcers even said in the telecast that Wondo is not known as a guy with a great skill set. Wondo is also 30, his best years are behind him while Jozy is only 22. Yeah he has a nose for the goal, no doubt, and if you leave him unchecked and allow him to roam around the net he is going to score. He gets credit for stepping up his game in a tournament that is essentially a tryout for a lot of guys for the main roster, but once again, people are taking too much away from this tournament.

      There is a reason that Wondo, at 30, coming off huge back to back MLS campaigns was left off and has often been left off the main roster. He doesn’t have great pace, he doesn’t have great ball handling skills, he doesn’t have great touch on passes, he doesn’t have an explosive first step. He tends to be a right place, right time type of player and players like that don’t often find those “right places” against good competition.

  6. jucam1 - Jul 14, 2013 at 2:18 PM

    Does the US have to play in the Gold Cup?… I’m only asking because I want this nation to become a contender for the cup in my life time and playing Belize, Cuba, and my Junior High B team is not going to improve them any. I know it’s a chance for Jurgen to test out several guys but this is just awful to watch and some of the guys start playing down to the competition….. I wonder how difficult it would be to get the US as a permanent part of Copa America where they can play world class teams like Brasil, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, etc every 2 years.

  7. boscoesworld - Jul 14, 2013 at 3:06 PM

    I think that another thing we have learned in this whole tournament is that Mix Diskerud is a player to be watched for the near future. Whenever he gets on the field and it is most noticeable when he comes in at half, the pace instantly picks up. The ball moves back and forth easily. The aggressive pass is mostly made rather than the typical USNT cut back back pass. He just has a great vision for the game. The center mids in this tourney should be Mix and Holden!!

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