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USA beat Cuba 4-1 to make Gold Cup quarterfinals

Jul 13, 2013, 5:34 PM EDT

Wondolowski of the U.S. reacts to goal against Belize during their CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer match in Portland, Oregon

The US national team overturned a first half deficit to defeat Cuba 4-1 on Saturday night in Utah.

A lively crowd gathered to cheer on the USA, but they were left reeling after a spirited effort from Cuba in the first half.

However the Yanks got their act together in the second period as the comeback victory was sealed by two goals from substitute Chris Wondolowski and strikes from Joe Corona and Landon Donovan. The win was also the USA’s seventh victory in a row, tying their all-time record.

And Jurgen Klinsmann’s side are now through to the quarterfinal stages of the Gold Cup for the 13th consecutive time.

In what was a largely sluggish first half display from the Nats in sunny Utah, the Cubans grew in stature as they continued to thwart the USA with solid defense.

And after 36 minutes Cuba got their reward for being patient.

Left back Edgar Castillo was left flat footed by Cuba’s speedy attacker Ariel Martinez and captain Oguchi Onyewu was caught napping to allow Jose Alfonso to score and give Cuba a shock 1-0 lead. Cuba had their tails up after their opening goal as they searched for just their second win in Gold Cup history.

There were a few half chances for the USA from set pieces, but Klinsmann’s men really didn’t get going at all in the first half.

Donovan missed a clear header at the back post in the 42nd minute and in the 43rd minute the US thought they were back level, as Donovan slotted home Herculez Gomez’ knockdown from close range. But the assistant raised his flag as the LA Galaxy forward strayed offside by about a yard.

(MORE: Three things we learned from U.S. victory over Cuba)

That could have changed the whole outlook of the game. But luckily the turning point arrived soon after.

Right on half time a surging run from Brek Shea created the opening as Castillo played a one-two with Donovan and the Club Tijuana man was brought down in the box. The referee pointed to the spot and Donovan stepped up to score his 53rd goal for the US to make it 1-1.

Brek Shea got injured at the end of the half and was replaced by Jose Torres at the break. Shea did well in stages but certainly struggled to emulate the form he found whilst at FC Dallas.

Cuban goalkeeper Odelin Molina was in fine form to stop the US from taking the lead early in the second half, saving Michael Orozco’s header in the 49th minute.

The US kept pushing hard and finally went ahead in the 57th minute when Joe Corona blasted home from the edge of the box. The goal was his first international goal and a sweet strike from the Club Tijuana attacker.

But less than a minute after Corona put the U.S. ahead, Onyewu looked to have given away a penalty after a clumsy tackle on Alfonso. Onyewu’s lunge inside the box was waved away and replays showed that he did get his foot to the ball, just. Nevertheless, the Cuban players were incensed with the referees decision.

Chris Wondolowski jumped off the bench to put the USA up 3-1, continuing his terrific form for the national team. The San Jose Earthquakes striker pounced to prod home Kyle Beckerman’s teasing ball in the 65th minute.

(MORE: Wondolowski revealed hidden “W” on jersey, as misspelling does the trick again)

Despite the USA dominating for large spells as they game closed out, Cuba were still dangerous on the break as Nick Rimando was forced into a good smothering save in the 80th minute.

But the predatory instincts of Wondolowski showed up once more as he scored his sixth goal in three games for the USA, after being slotted in beautifully by Castillo in the 85th minute.

Klinsmann’s men saw off the game with relative ease after an early scare, as the US comfortably sealed their passage into the Gold Cup knockout stages.

  1. themantisity - Jul 13, 2013 at 5:53 PM

    Yo

    • themantisity - Jul 13, 2013 at 5:54 PM

      Sole

  2. talgrath - Jul 13, 2013 at 6:03 PM

    The USMNT was frustratingly sluggish in the first half, like they thought goals would just magically come to them. The announcer kept ripping on Brek Shea, but I felt much of it wasn’t his fault, he barely got the ball as the USMNT kept playing around in the middle of the field, keeping possession but doing little else. What’s worse, that goal should have been a slap in the face to wake the US up, but they continued to play in a sluggish manner almost until the very end of the first half. The second half was much better, but Cuba still had some dangerous looks that it shouldn’t have, in my opinion.

    As a side note, horrible refereeing all around; missed calls on both sides of the ball.

    • skidmose - Jul 14, 2013 at 9:15 AM

      Brek Shea was horrible. His touches were bad, he didn’t attack the ball, and several of his crosses sailed way high and out of bounds. He is such an enigma; when he is good, he is very very good but when he is not, well, today was one of those day. this game probably sealed his fate for the world cup. There are way better options available to the US than Brek Shea. By the way, I agree that the referee was horrible – bad calls and/or no calls both ways.

      • talgrath - Jul 14, 2013 at 8:10 PM

        It seemed like he wasn’t quite in-sync with the left back, he’d get the pass on the touchline, send it back to the left back then begin a run past defenders and then the left back would pass it elsewhere, I’m not sure whose fault that is. Towards the end of the half, when it appears he abandoned that tactic, he looked much better, putting crosses in to the box from difficult positions that were spot on. I don’t think he’s quite out of the WC squad yet, if he can put in a better performance in another game, I think he’ll still be on the plane.

  3. cherry314 - Jul 13, 2013 at 6:20 PM

    The sluggish start made think of the Bob Bradley era and the team’s reputation for sluggish starts to games.

    Question: Has the US gotten better at not giving up the early goal then they were under Bradley? Or was the sluggish start problems a myth to begin with?

    • Joe Prince-Wright - Jul 13, 2013 at 7:51 PM

      Good point. Sort of elaborated on that during my “Three things we learned” piece.

      Here it is if you want to take a look at it: http://prosoccertalk.nbcsports.com/2013/07/13/three-things-we-learned-from-usas-victory-over-cuba/

      Basically I think the sluggish starts/defending poorly carrying over from the Bradley era is a myth. But one thing Klinsmann has now brought to the table is adept tactical changes during games.

      He was very stubborn during his first few months in charge of the national team. Now he is much more liable to change things and be proactive about getting the win.

      I know Shea had to come off due to injury (most likely) but I had a feeling Jose Torres would be arriving soon. He helped the US force the issue and Castillo got into the game more because of that switch.

      All in all another good outing and plenty of players have seen their stock rise during the Gold Cup, exactly what Klinsi wanted.

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