Corona, Wondolowski complete U.S. comeback to beat Cuba, advance to quarterfinals.
By Robert Wagman
(Saturday, July 13, 2013) -- The United States men got off to a slow start, but responded with a 4-1 victory over Cuba in Group C of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, clinching advancement to the semifinals in front of 17,597 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.
The U.S. and Costa Rica, which defeated Belize 1-0 tonight, both advanced to the quarterfinals and meet Tuesday night at 8 p.m. (ET) at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn., a game televised by Fox Soccer Channel and Spanish-language UniMas and Univision Deportes. The Americans will finish first in Group C with a win or a draw.
The U.S. controlled possession for much of the opening 45 minutes, but its attacks broke down in the final third. Cuba, meanwhile, managed to take a 1-0 lead when midfielder Ariel Martinez rounded U.S. left back Edgar Castillo and pulled the ball back to striker Jose Ciprian, whose first-touch blast found het in the 38th minute.
It appeared Cuba would carry its advantage into intermission, but American defender Edgar Castillo was dragged down as he entered Cuba’s penalty area trying to collect a pass. Forward Landon Donovan converted the subsequent penalty kick two minutes into stoppage time with his 15th overall Gold Cup goal for a 1-1 tie at the break.
The U.S. dominated the second half with midfielder Joe Corona putting the Americans ahead for good in the 57th minute. That’s when striker Chris Wondolowski came off the bench, adding two more goals to the three he netted against Belize in the opening 6-1 rout of Belize.
U.S. manager Jürgen Klinsmann made a number of changes from the 11 who started against Belize in Portland, Ore. He mixed up his defense inserting Edgar Castillo, Oguchi Onyewu and Tony Beltran. Generally speaking, the unit played well.
The biggest change was in the attack where forward Herculez Gomez, and midfielders Stuart Holden and Brek Shea all made their first starts. They did considerably less well, especially working together. The Americans were simply out-of-sync the first 45 minutes.
As expected, Cuba started in an extremely defensive set and the U.S. was not able to break it down until Donovan’s run into the box in injury time.
The Americans seemed to come out in the second 45 more motivated and picked up the pace considerably. It paid off, when in the 57th minute, Corona pounced on a loose ball and hit a curling a shot from just above the 18-yard-line into the net for a 2-1 lead. It was his first U.S. goal.
After Wondolowski entered, he used his speed and ability to put away tallies in the 64th and 83rd minutes. He actually missed his best chance when he took a pass from Donovan, but his wide-open shot went straight to goalkeeper Odelín Molina.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Nick Rimando - 6: He was very active in goal and generally played well. He could not be faulted on the Cuban goal, which was blasted past him. He may not be on a level with Tim Howard or Brad Guzan, but he is quite good enough to play with the “B” team.
Defender Edgar Castillo - 5: He was badly beaten on the Cuban goal. Seemingly trying to prove he has as much speed as DaMarcus Beasley, with whom he is contesting for playing time, he advanced to far and was caught. Once he settled in, he was very much better, earning the penalty Donovan converted. He was a consistent threat in the second half.
Defender Michael Orozco Fiscal - 5.5: Out of position on the Cuban goal, he otherwise had a good night though he was not pressured often.
Defender Oguchi Onyewu - 5.5: He could not get over to cover on Cuban’s tally, bit he otherwise had a strong match. He covered a lot of ground and showed good fitness.
Defender Tony Beltran - 5.5: He had some problems in the early going, but settled in to put in a workman-like performance.
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman - 6: The way the match developed, he was the only defensive midfielder and did very well in that role over 90 minutes. He got more into the attack in the second half and assisted on Wondolowski’s first strike.
Midfielder Joe Corona - 6: He provided a highlight-reel goal to put the U.S. ahead early in the second half. He contributed much more in the second half than he did in the opening 45 minutes.
Midfielder Brek Shea - 4: In an opportunity to show he belonged, he made mistakes large and small and did not help himself.
Midfielder Stuart Holden - 5: In his first international start in more than three years, he was not as strong as he was appearing in the second half against Belize. He seemed to hang deeper in the midfield and was not as involved offensively. He seemed to tire as the second half wore on.
Forward Landon Donovan - 6.5: His work rate was terrific. In the first half, his crossing could have been better. He did considerably better after intermission and made plays all over the field. For a second straight outing, he converted a penalty and likely could have scored in the final seconds, but instead fed Wondolowski hoping he would complete another hat trick.
Forward Herculez Gomez - 5.5: He just seemed a half-step out-of-sync with those around him. He worked hard, but had little to show for it in the end.
Midfielder Jose Torres (46th minute for Shea) - 6: He was much more sure-footed than the player he replaced. He was a constant problem for the Cubans and effective exchanging places with Donovan.
Midfielder Chris Wondolowski (58th minute for Gomez) - 7.5: The most important attribute of a striker is that he can finish and he showed that he has that ability by scoring twice (although he fired his best setup right at the keeper). On the U.S. team, the ability to finish has been sorely lacking at times and he continues to make the case he belongs at the World Cup in Brazil next year.
Midfielder Mikkel Diskerud (58th minute for Holden) - 5.5: He made few missteps, but did little to stand out. He never really got into the match.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Chris Wondolowski.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
Do you have a comment on this story or something to say about soccer in general? Send us a letter.