USA vs. Cuba: How Team USA Pulled off Gold Cup Victory

Ryan DavenportContributor IJuly 14, 2013

PORTLAND, OR - JULY 09:  Chris Wondolowski #19 of the United States celebrates scoring his second goal in the first half against Belize during the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup on July 9, 2013 at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, Oregon.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

In order to advance to the quarterfinals of the 2013 Gold Cup, the United States needed to beat Cuba. 

It wasn't easy, but the U.S. raced back after surrendering the game's first goal, and rallied to secure a 4-1 victory. The U.S. enjoyed strong contributions off the bench in the second half. 

And once again, it was Chris Wondolowski who stole the show. 

Just three days after Wondolowski's hat trick helped the U.S. roll over Belize with a 6-1 win, the 30-year-old striker exploded during the second half against Cuba. He finished with two goals to ice the game for his country. 

But this wasn't a cake walk for Jurgen Klinsmann's squad, especially after a pair of recent matches against opponents who didn't offer the U.S. much of a test earlier in the week. 

No, Cuba had control of the game for a time, after Jose Alfonso Pita opened the scoring in the 36th minute on a well-placed shot from in close. 

It seemed that Cuba would head into the locker room at the half with a one-goal lead, but the momentum shifted entirely when Landon Donovan buried a penalty kick during the second minute of injury time, just seconds before the half was set to end. 

From there, the United States poured it on, and Wondolowski took over. 

Though he didn't enter the game until just after Joe Corona Crespin gave the U.S. the lead in the 57th minute, the San Jose Earthquakes star made his presence felt almost immediately as he gave the U.S. some breathing room by increasing the lead to two. 

Wondolowski made it two on the day when he found the bottom left corner in the 85th minute, and at this point, one has to think that he's come within striking distance of a place on the U.S. World Cup squad. 

Through the team's first two games at the Gold Cup, Wondolowski has five goals, which is even more remarkable when considering that the California native played roughly a third of the game against Cuba—the U.S.' most difficult opponent thus far. 

Overall, the Cuban side was lucky to hang around for as long as they did, as the U.S. held possession for 76 percent of the match and outshot the opposition by a 10-2 margin. 

Up next, the U.S. will have a much more difficult test in Costa Rica, who have reeled off a pair of convincing wins of their own. 

That won't be an easy match either, but at least judging by the team's play thus far, the U.S. has to be considered the favorite of the group going forward.