USA RALLIES PAST CUBA
The USA overcame a slow start and an early deficit to beat Cuba 4-1 on Saturday afternoon at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.
Chris Wondolowski scored twice off the bench, Joe Corona tallied his first goal in a USA jersey, and Donovan converted from the spot as the USA passed on to the quarterfinals.
The game was played through rain, which gave way midway through the first half, ending in a humid sunny heat.
Cuba took the early lead on a counter strike from forward José Ciprian. In the 36th minute, midfielder Ariel Martínez broke past defender Edgar Castillo on the left side, worked his way inside the box, and fired a quick pass to the top of the box. Ciprian one timed his shot into the upper right hand corner of goal, giving keeper Nick Rimando no chance.
The USA thought that they had the equalizer in the 44th minute as Herculez Gomez headed down a cross to Landon Donovan, who put the ball underneath the Cuban keeper Odelin Molina and into the back of the net. Donovan had just slipped offsides, and the goal was disallowed.
In stoppage time, left back Edgar Castillo found Donovan at the top of the box, cut inside and was tripped up inside the box. Canadian referee David Gantar immediately pointed to the spot. Donovan stepped up and drilled the penalty left, with keeper Molina diving right.
In the 48th minute, defender Michael Orozco headed a Jose Torres free kick at goal, provoking a quick reaction save from Molina, who tapped the ball out for a corner.
The US got into the lead for good in the 52nd minute of play. Edgar Castillo raced into the box, finding Stuart Holden open at the top of the 18. The ball deflected after Holden's first touch, and fell into the path of Joe Corona. Corona's first time shot curled into the far right side of the net, past a diving Molina, giving the US the advantage.
The goal for Corona was his first international goal for the United States, and it filled him with confidence. "I've been waiting for this moment for a long time, I'm happy I've got that pressure off me."
The pressure continued, and the USA found another goal in the 66th minute, this time from San Jose Earthquake forward and second half substitute Chris Wondolowski. Tony Beltran placed a great pass to midfielder and club teammate Kyle Beckerman, who drove the ball into the center. Chris Wondolowski got on the cross and tapped the ball past the keeper.
It was the second straight game where the forward had found a connection with the Real Salt Lake midfielder. "Both of those crosses that he has whipped in have been superb," described Wondolowski. "Striker is a funny position where sometimes everything you hit either comes off the post, or is saved by the keeper, and sometimes you get your toe on it and it goes in."
Shortly thereafter in the 70th minute, the US nearly extended their lead. Mikkel Diskerud launched a shot off of a rebound, barely scraping by outside of the left post.
Wondolowski, fresh off two terrific performances, would not go out quietly, and added an insurance goal from close range in the 85th minute.
USA coach Jürgen Klinsmann described the difficulty of breaking down the Cuban defense in the first half. "It's always difficult when there are nine players in the box. You have to find ways to get through that, and if you don't then there is always a chance for a counter break, which they used. Then we had to find ways to break them down which is what happened. Overall, the result is what we wanted. Next round, three points, moving on."
The win guarantees the the United States passage to the quarterfinals, but a win against Costa Rica on Tuesday would assure them a first place finish in the group. Cuba will finish the group in a battle for third place as they take on Belize.