USMNT finds form against Cuba | USMNT Vs Cuba
Jurgen Klinsmann lined his team up in a 4-4-2 diamond midfield formation. Aron Johannsson and Clint Dempsey started as the attacking duo. Alejandro Bedoya was given then start on the left side after his strong performance in the final group stage game. Gyasi Zardes played on the right, Kyle Beckerman played in the holding midfielder role in the diamond, and Michael Bradley was in the attacking midfield position. Fabian Johnson played left back, and Timmy Chandler was given another chance at right back after struggling to find his stride in the group stage. Omar Gonzalez and Ventura Alvarado were the center backs.
From the start the U.S. was in command of the pace of the game. Unlike the starts to their previous games at the Gold Cup, they were able to get a foot hold right away. This was evident by the 4th minute goal from Clint Dempsey. After a spell of possession in the Cuban end to start the game, the ball was passed out to Timmy Chandler on the right side of the field who played an out swinging ball into the box. Dempsey’s run set him up perfectly to go up and head the ball into the back of the net. From that point on Cuba was on their heels throughout the match, the U.S. was given lots of time on the ball in the midfield. Unlike Haiti and Honduras, Cuba did not press the first pass in the midfield. Experienced midfielders Michael Bradley and Kyle Beckerman took advantage of the space and time by playing balls over the top, in behind the Cuban back line. The U.S. also played well out wide on the flanks.
Cuba set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation hoping to slow down the U.S. through the middle of the park. The U.S. was able to take advantage out wide because of the speedy play by Bedoya and Zardes who both turned in strong games filled with offensive creation. In the 15th minute Fabian Johnson played another out swinging ball from the left side of the pitch. Zardes came flying in from the wing, unmarked, and was able to poke it home. This was the start that Jurgen Klinsmann had been looking for, his team came out hungry and ready to be out on the front foot.
In the 32nd minute Michael Bradley picked up the ball in the U.S. defensive half, and was able to find Johannsson over the top. He collected the ball with no defenders in sight and was able to loft the ball over the goalie who was far off his line to put the U.S. up 3-0. The scoring in the first half did not end there. Alejandro Bedoya found space out wide, took his defender on, and was able to draw a corner in the 45th minute. Michael Bradley stepped up, and swung a ball into the back post where it appeared to be headed over the end line. Aron Johannsson was able to get on the end of it with a diving header to put the ball back across the face of goal. Omar Gonzalez beat his man to the spot and was able to finish off the play with a sliding right footed shot. The half came to a close with the U.S. leading 4-0. To start the second half Jurgen Klinsmann made two changes. Brad Evans came on for Timmy Chandler, and Joe Corona made his first appearance of the tournament in place of Kyle Beckerman.
The U.S. did not wait around to get going in the second half. Corona and Evans found themselves involved in the play. Brad Evans found space on the right wing and was able to play many quality crosses into the Cuban box. In the 63rd minute, an Evans cross found Johannsson in the Cuban box who was hauled down by a Cuban defender. Clint Dempsey stepped up and chipped the P.K. straight down the middle giving the U.S. a 5-0 lead. After numerous attacks and chances the U.S. put away their final goal in the 78th minute. Michael Bradley intercepted a poor clearance from a Cuban defender, dribbled into the box, and slotted a ball towards the far post. Clint Dempsey ran around his defender, went into a slide, and was able to fire home the ball with an outside of the foot shot. The U.S. killed off the last minutes with possession and steady play. Brad Guzan rarely had to be involved, and was able to make the stops when called upon. The U.S. closed out the game in convincing fashion, and put themselves through to the semi finals.
This was a strong U.S. win, however, it could use some perspective. The beat a Cuban teamed plagued by defections and injuries. It was a team the U.S. would be expected to beat even at full strength. That being said, the U.S. players stepped up from the beginning and did their jobs. The play from the midfield was the best this tournament, and Klinsmann will be encourage by the up field play by his strikers. Clint Dempsey kept his hot streak going by scoring 3 more goals, making his tournament total 6. In their upcoming game against Jamaica, Brad Evans may feature in the starting XI, after Timmy Chandler had another rough game. John Brooks may be re-introduced into the squad after serving his suspension, however, Alvarado and Gonzalez turned in a strong game as the center back pairing. The U.S. plays again on July 22nd against Jamaica in the Gold Cup semifinals. They will look to continue their good form and be in the Gold Cup final for consecutive tournaments.
Prediction: U.S. 3-1 win