The United States can book a place in the Gold Cup quarterfinals with a victory over Cuba in Sandy, Utah on Saturday. After a resounding 6-1 victory over Belize in their opener on Tuesday, few expect Jurgen Klinsmann’s side to be tested to any great degree against a Cuba team that lost their first match of the competition 3-0 to Costa Rica.
Despite taking what amounts to a B side to the Concacaf championships, the players on show for the Unites States have plenty to play for as they look to earn a place in Klinsmann’s plans for the remaining rounds of World Cup qualifying and the major goal of being on the plane to Brazil next year.
Chris Wondolowski has so far taken maximum advantage of his opportunity. Without a goal for his country prior to just over a week ago, the 30-year-old struck in a warm-up match with Guatemala before firing a hat-trick against Belize. And Klinsmann was suitably impressed.
“That’s what a goal scorer is about, always hungry and doesn’t change his way,” the German said, according to the U.S. soccer website. “It makes us coaches happy, obviously, and he builds his own case. Wondo realizes every minute he’s on the field that he has an opportunity, and he better take it, and he did very well.”
The San Jose Earthquakes striker will hope to again be selected up front after Klinsmann admitted that Herculez Gomez, with his history of knee problems, was not risked on the artificial turf in Portland. The U.S. have won seven of nine previous meetings with Cuba, including a 6-1 victory when the sides last met in 2008. The U.S. captain for this Gold Cup, DaMarcus Beasley scored twice on that occasion, but is keen for his side not to take their next opponents lightly.
“They are very attack-minded, they have some skillful players and they’re athletic as well,” he said. “They play pretty good football. We need to concentrate for 90 minutes and can’t have lapses on the field.”
D: Parkhurst, Orozco Fiscal, Beasley
M: Corona, Holden, Diskerud, Torres
F: Donovan, Gomez
D: Malblanche, Urgelles Montoya, Clavelo, Corrales, Colome
M: Martinez Gonzales, Gomez, Colome Valencia, Marquez
F: Puga Estevez
Prediction: Anything other than another comfortable victory for the United States en route to the quarterfinals would be a major surprise. Whether Klinsmann goes for Gomez or Wondolowski alongside Donovan either should get their name on the scoresheet, while Stuart Holden may get the chance for a full 90 minutes in midfield. After conceding against Belize, the backline will want to post a shutout this time around too,
USA 5-0 Cuba
Where to watch: The Gold Cup Group C Match at the Rio Tinto Stadium will kick-off at 3.30 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox and Univision, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer2Go.