USMNT Report: Another Light Affair

Today’s Cuba encounter is another light, yet very telling, match in the Gold Cup
by Herb Scribner   |   Saturday, July 13, 2013

USMNT Report - coverage of the United States Men's National Team

The United States Men’s National Team has been on a winning frenzy.

And the Americans have another easy opponent on tap for this afternoon in Sandy, Utah, as they go against Cuba in both teams' 2nd 2013 Gold Cup game.

Though it’ll be another light affair for the United States, it’ll also be very telling of how much the US has developed since its last clash with Cuba.

THE ROAD TO NOW: The USMNT strolls into Salt Lake City after winning 6 games in a row, putting the team 1 win away from equaling the all-time winning streak record set in 2007. The last 2 wins on this run came from routs over Belize and Guatemala.

In the Gold Cup opener last Tuesday, the Americans thrashed Belize, 5-1, with the help of Chris Wondolowski, who earned a 1st half hat trick. Landon Donovan scored off a penalty kick, and tallied 2 assists to make him the 1st American player in the 50/50 club. Stuart Holden also netted a goal, which was his 3rd all-time for the USA.

PRE-GAME CHATTER: One major talking point that has been raised before tonight’s contest is Osvaldo Alonso and his national team status with Cuba. USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann said he wants Alonso, who has citizenship in the United States, on the US side, but Cuba, and its soccer federation, continue to block the move.

Oguchi Onyewu remarked that he is ready to step into the USA lineup, which is reportedly the only change Klinsmann will make to the squad that defeated Belize earlier this week.

ANALYSIS: Though Cuba is a more formidable opponent than Belize or Guatemala, the United States shouldn’t be tested too much at Rio Tinto Stadium.

But the game will be a telling one, as it’ll show how this United States squad, which has picked up a variety of labels (B team, B-plus team, A team 2.0), measures to ones of years past.

Cuba and the USA have a storied history on the pitch, with the Americans ahead in the all-time record of 7-1-1, which dates back to 1947. The most recent victory was a 6-1 win in 2008 that featured 2 goals from DaMarcus Beasley and 1 goal for both Donovan and Onyewu. Jose Torres, who is also on the US squad for today’s clash, became cap-tied to the USA in that match.

The United States can show its progress with another dominating performance. Though the USMNT has struggled before against Cuba – churning out only a 1-0 win in a 2010 World Cup Qualifier – today should be a near-cakewalk for this team, which has been blazing through CONCACAF’s minnows with barely a scratch.

It’s important that the Americans do their best to raise confidence heading into next week’s tougher tilt with Costa Rica, which has proven to be a capable side both in and out of the Gold Cup. A win at Rio Tinto Stadium would qualify the USA for the Gold Cup quarterfinals, and that is certainly something the Yanks rather do ahead of next week’s clash.

To capitalize on Cuba, Klinsmann’s side will have to make some changes. The US can’t allow unmarked players to seep through the box like it did against Belize. Michael Parkhurst let the Jaguars’ Ian Gaynair stroll openly near net, leading to his header that brought Belize back to just 1 goal down. The backline, which will definitely be tested next week against Costa Rica, has to stay composed and continue its run of (mostly) luck.

Cuba can be dangerous in the attack, especially if defender Yenier Marquez, who is the leading scorer for the Cubans, gets opportunities to score.

The Cubans are a very defensive team. Not only is its most-capped player goalkeeper Odelin Molina suiting up for today’s game, but so are Marquez and Jorge Luis Clavelo, who both play for the Cuban national champions, FC Villa Clara.

It’d be good for the United States to keep its attacking and progressive play, too. Klinsmann has often talked about giving the USA a specific style, and it’s shown so far in the Gold Cup. Keeping this form throughout the tournament, no matter the opponent, is good for both the team and American soccer moving forward.

With an assured spot in the quarterfinals on the line, there’s a lot to play for. Pressure is surely on the Americans to get a result and advance ahead of the Costa Rica contest. It’ll be a good test for Klinsmann to see how his players – especially the ones looking to make next year’s World Cup – respond to pressure, and whether or not they’re going to be successful with something on the line.

So far the USA hasn’t had much to play for, other than building a case for the tournament and the future. The Guatemala domination was a friendly and Tuesday’s win over Belize was a mere tournament opener.

There are actual stakes on the line in this afternoon’s encounter, and it’s important that the US responds well and doesn’t collapse in an important and meaningful situation.

NEXT UP: July 13 – Gold Cup: United States vs. Cuba, Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah. 3:30 p.m. EST, FOX, Univision.

Herb SCRIBNER

Nationality:
USA
College:
UMass Amherst
Club Domestic:
RSL
Club Foreign:
FC Barcelona
SN managing editor and award-winning journalist, Herb has always been known as "The Soccer Guy" wherever he goes. He's a leftback in most outdoor and indoor leagues. He also writes for Deseret News National.
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