071013_costaricacuba_reuters_rtx11iav Steve Dipaola/Reuters
2013 Gold Cup

Costa Rica 3, Cuba 0: ASN's Match Analysis and Quotes

The United States faces Cuba on Saturday in Sandy, Utah, and then squares off against Costa Rica in Hartford, Ct., three days after that. Here's a look at Costa Rica's 3-0 win from last night.
BY Cody Worsham Posted
July 10, 2013
11:45 AM
Disinterest defeated disorganization Tuesday night in Portland, as Costa Rica shook off a sluggish start to beat Cuba 3-0 in the opening match of Group C at the 2013 Gold Cup.

After the two teams plodded to a 0-0 halftime score, Man of the Match Michael Barrantes (51’, 77’) sandwiched a brace around Jairo Arrieta’s 71st-minute goal to give Costa Rica a three-goal win that flattered the Ticos.

“They are not an easy opponent,” Barrantes said after the match. “They do not have much to lose, so they can be dangerous.”

Los Ticos certainly looked in danger of dropping points to the Cubans, who came out pressing in their usual manner of play. Costa Rica crumbled to that pressure, failing to string together any sort of consistent offensive attack. The MLS striking duo of Columbus Crew’s Arrieta and Real Salt Lake’s Alvaro Saborio were given little service to work with, and the Tico attack suffered.

Fortunately for Costa Rica, Cuba were no better. While its pressing defensive performed well, the Cuban attack faltered. Walter Benitez opted for a defensive lineup that often looked to stack five defenders across the backline, as Aliannis Urgelles—typically a full back—lined up on the wing. The strategy served to fluster Costa Rica, but it also slowed the Cuban counter.

“The Cuban team has grown a lot,” said Costa Rica head coach Jorge Luis Pinto. “In the first half they were well organized and put us under pressure.”

That early pressure only served to wake up Pinto’s men and wear down Benitez’s. The communication between Urgelles and the rest of the Cuban backline soon began breaking down, and as Costa Rica became more comfortable on the ball, Cuba lost all sense of organization.

Barrantes’ first goal came after a poor headed clearance from Cuban center back Jorge Luis Clavelo, and Barrantes beat a disjointed defense to the loose ball in the box, driving it with his left foot inside the far post and beyond the reach of Odelin Molina.

Costa Rica would not need another goal, but it would tack on two for good measure. The second tally came off another mistake from the Cuban backline, this time via left back Jorge Luis Corrales. After Corrales misplayed a long ball from the Costa Rican backline, Costa Rican substitute Kenny Cunningham deftly touched into the box and delivered a perfect cross to Arrieta, who was initially denied well by Molina but tapped in the rebound.

Barrantes added the final dagger minutes later, dribbling into space against virtually no pressyre and easily curling the ball beyond Molina’s reach from outside the box.

The key to Costa Rica’s turnaround was keeping the ball, as Los Ticos finished with 68 percent of the possession after a fairly even first half.

"The way we managed the ball, we were able to create some opportunities and we were able to score," Pinto said.

Cuba were not without chances, firing off 16 shots. Only three were on target, however, not including their best opportunity of the night, a blown header from Alberto Gomez in the first half.

Still, Leones del Caribe had every chance to pick up points after a sturdy first half, but the energy and compactness that got them to a scoreless halftime result soon vanished—as did hopes of victory.

"We got a little bit disorganized in the second half, which cost us the result," Benitez said.

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