USMNT Report: USA in the Right Spot

The Americans advance to the Gold Cup quarterfinals with a 4-1 win over Cuba
by Herb Scribner   |   Saturday, July 13, 2013

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

As time ticked away, the United States Men’s National Team, competing in its 2nd game in the 2013 Gold Cup, barely had a lead on Cuba.

And then there was Wondo.

Scoring 2 goals in the 2nd half and playing well off the ball, Chris Wondolowski, the MLS star for the San Jose Earthquakes, led the United States to a 4-1 win over the Cubans, which sends the Americans into the Gold Cup quarterfinals.

POST-GAME REACTIONS: USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann said Cuba played the way the Americans expected.

“We knew it was going to be tough with so many players behind the ball,” he said. “We picked it up in the 2nd half and got the result."

Klinsmann also wasn’t shy to acknowledge the importance of the Costa Rica contest.

"Costa Rica is the first real benchmark for us,” he said.

ANALYSIS: It wasn’t the most inspiring or memorable victory, but the USA will take it.

The Americans coughed their way to the finish line in a very lackluster and slow-moving game that will be forgettable by the tournament’s conclusion. Though it was a high-scoring affair, it didn’t feel anything like it.

But there were positives within the drubbing. Wondolowski’s been the typical scorer for the US in recent affairs, netting 6 goals in the past 3 matches. He’s often right where the USA needs him to be, whether it’s to head in a goal or rifle a shot off. After a slump in both club and international play, Wondolowski has surely stepped his game up and is scoring well for the USA. He’s done a great job running off the ball, showing his pure scorer skill.

Though familiar and skilled, Joe Corona, who hasn’t produced very much since earning caps with the United States, exceeded expectations against Cuba with a goal of his own. He dribbled forward very well and showcased the attacking style that Klinsmann has brought in. Like Wondolowski, Corona was also in the right place at the right time to net his highlight of a goal.

Edgar Castillo, who is usually running into space and hasn’t had much time on the pitch, controlled the ball at points, leading the USA to having about 75% of the possession tally. But Castillo didn’t do himself any favors on the Cuba opening goal, as he was virtually absent during the play.

It was a tough 1st half for the US, as Cuba’s Ciprian Alfonso netted the opening goal 36 minutes into the game. Cuba did just enough to tame the roaring Americans and keep things neutral, but the leones del Caribe couldn’t withstand the 2nd half onslaught that ensued.

Kyle Beckerman, playing in his club stadium and looking to silence critics, and Mix Diskerud calmed things down in the midfield, but didn’t produce anything too pretty on the American side. Beckerman’s cross inside to Wondo on the San Jose striker’s 1st goal of the game was beautifully placed.

It wasn’t a good-looking affair, and the US wasn’t anywhere near as dominant as it was against Belize and Guatemala. But the USA regrouped and found the ball again whenever it lost possession, keeping the lead in its favor and sluggishly churning out a victory.

A game against Cuba shouldn’t be difficult – it should be an assured win, especially at this stage in American soccer growth. But there are still silly mistakes being made that teams like Costa Rica will be willing and able to capitalize on.

While the USMNT and its fans are riding high with the 7th straight win across all competitions, a reality check is in-store for next week. Costa Rica, which is usually the No. 3 CONCACAF squad, won’t hang back as much as Cuba and Belize did, and certainly won’t make it easy for the USA to stage a comeback.

Today’s win might prove to be more crucial in the end, as the USA has already qualified for the next round and won’t have to put it all on the line in Hartford.

NEXT UP: July 16 – Gold Cup: United States vs. Costa Rica, Rentschler Field, East Hartford, Conn. 8 p.m. EST, FOX Soccer Channel, Univision Deportes.

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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