International Football

USA vs. Cuba: Biggest Takeaways from Gold Cup Tilt

SANDY, UT - JULY 13:  Joe Corona #6 of the United States and Jorge Luis Corrales #13 of Cuba fight for the ball during the second half of a CONCACAF Gold Cup match July 13, 2013 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. The U.S. defeated Cuba 4-1.  (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
George Frey/Getty Images
Alex BallentineFeatured ColumnistJuly 14, 2013

Team USA moved one step closer to hoisting the Gold Cup this year with its 4-1 win over Cuba to lock up another three points in the group stage. 

The win guarantees that The Stars and Stripes will make an appearance in the quarterfinals regardless of what happens in its final group stage game against Costa Rica. 

Cuba, on the other hand, goes to 0-2 and was eliminated from advancing past its final group play game against Belize.

The result here wasn't surprising. The USA has been playing very well of late, and Cuba isn't the most threatening side the squad will face. 

However, there were some important takeaways from this game going forward. Each match is important as these teams not only compete for the Gold Cup, but attempt to get in top form for the World Cup in 2014. 

These were the biggest takeaways from this one. 

 

Chris Wondolowski Can Score—Against Inferior Competition

San Jose Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski has emerged as the biggest winner of the Gold Cup on the U.S. team. He followed up his hat-trick against Belize with a two-goal performance against Cuba, giving him five goals in two games. 

These are certainly impressive numbers. Considering the importance of having multiple players that can create offense, it's certainly a welcome development. 

However, it should be noted that the jury is still out on Wondo

Prior to the current goal-scoring spree, Wondolowski had 10 international appearances with just one goal. Scoring multiple goals against the likes of Belize and Cuba isn't enough to make us forget that quite yet. 

Regardless of competition, Wondo's ability to find the net once again is encouraging. Now, he has to show that he can continue to hit the mark when the competition gets tougher. 

 

Landon Donovan Still Has It

Unlike Wondolowski, Landon Donovan has proved himself on the international stage for years. As the leading scorer in USMNT history, there aren't many that would question his importance to the country. 

However, his age (31 years old) and light international schedule of late are reason enough to wonder aloud if he still has what it takes to contribute. 

If the past two games have been any indication, the answer is yes. Earning the start against Cuba, Donovan found the net for the second time in as many games. scoring the first goal for the Americans. 

Much like Wondolowski, Donovan still needs to prove that he can score against better competition. But with four goals in three games going back to a friendly against Guatemala, he's playing as well as one could hope right now. 

 

The USA Can't Afford to Lose Focus

While the final score certainly didn't show it, the match was not all smooth sailing for Team USA. 

Cuba actually struck first with a goal from Ciprian Alfonso that was the result of a well-placed pass from Ariel Martinez that put the underdogs up 1-0 at the 36th-minute mark. Fox Soccer tweeted out the goal:

Landon Donovan didn't send the equalizer home until stoppage time to end the first half. 

That means, as well as the U.S. played overall, Cuba was able to hang with the Americans throughout the first 45 minutes of the match. Though you certainly can't expect total domination all the time, it shouldn't take a first-half draw to get the team to move the ball better. 

If the team starts off that slow against Costa Rica in its next match, there could be disappointing results. 

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