The United States started its run in the Gold Cup with a blowout victory over Belize. The task gets tougher, albeit marginally, when the Americans take on Cuba in the second match of the group stage. Cuba dropped its opener to Costa Rica.
Given Mexico's lackluster play out of the gate and inexperienced squad, the United States is quickly emerging as the tournament's top team. Jurgen Klinsmann has been getting some very strong performances from what amounts to his "B" squad.
As for Cuba, the underdog side must elevate its level of play in order to make the knockout stage. Barring some unexpected results, the Leones del Caribe are fighting for one of the third-place spots in the next round. Even a draw in this match would provide a huge boost.
With that in mind, let's take a look at all the important information for the Gold Cup clash match, followed by a preview and a match prediction.
Where: Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah
When: Saturday, July 13 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Fox Soccer 2Go
After a strong showing in the opener, one of the biggest factors is the lineup Klinsmann chooses to use amid a busy schedule. He must decide between going with his best 11 or giving some players a rest before a showdown with Costa Rica.
Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley are two veterans the head coach will want fresh for the latter stages of the tournament, but sitting them both would leave a leadership void. So it becomes a balancing act moving forward.
One player who should definitely draw another start is Chris Wondolowski. The striker is coming off a hat trick against Belize and is making a powerful case for more first-team chances in the future. He needs to keep building off his recent play.
Mix Diskerud and Stuart Holden have both shined in the last two matches, including the friendly victory over Guatemala. Giving them a chance to start in the midfield together is something Klinsmann should try during the group stage, and this match provides a good opportunity.
The silver lining for the United States is that the squad's depth puts it in a good position to earn three points. The task just becomes more difficult if Klinsmann opts for widespread changes, which would reduce the margin for error.
For Cuba, the pressure to keep the match close falls on the experienced duo of Yenier Marquez and Jaime Colome. They must do a better job of controlling the center of the pitch after watching Costa Rica hold a major edge in possession during the opener.
The Leones del Caribe were able to keep the match scoreless until halftime. But the sustained pressure eventually wore down the Cuban defense, and the Ticos pulled away for a 3-0 win. A similar strategy would lead to similar results against the United States.
Earning more possession would have a trickle-down effect and make it much easier to keep the match close. That's especially true if the United States alters its lineup and goes with a group that doesn't have the same type of chemistry.
All told, the Americans should be able to continue their winning ways. The rate of goals will likely drop off after netting 12 over the past two matches, but they should be in complete control by the second half en route to another comfortable victory.
Prediction: United States 3, Cuba 0
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