71915_isi_dempseyclint_usmntjd071815113 John Dorton/isiphotos.com
2015 Gold Cup

Five Thoughts on the United States' Big Win Over Cuba

Jurgen Klinsmann's men should feel good about Saturday's 6-0 victory over Cuba—but not too good. A lopsided win over a weak opponent can build momentum as well as a false sense of security.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
July 19, 2015
8:00 AM
BALTIMORE—The United States defeated Cuba in a lopsided 6-0 rout to advance to the semifinals of the 2015 Gold Cup. Clint Dempsey earned his first international hat trick and the U.S. team put the game out of reach early.
Next up will be a talented Jamaica team in Atlanta on Wednesday—a far bigger challenge for the Americans. Here are five takeaways from Saturday's win.

1. Tough to read too much into win

Let's face it: This Cuban team was very weak and drawing too many conclusions form the outcome would be misleading. Cuba was missing several players due to defections and it was very surprising that this team, already eliminated from the 2018 World Cup, survived the group phase of the Gold Cup.
Yes, the U.S. offense flowed nicely and could have scored even more than the six that it did. But a decisive win over Cuba does not necessarily mean that the Americans have resolved all of the issues that plagued them earlier in the tournament.
Even the pernennially optimistic Jurgen Klinsmann was reluctant to draw many conclusions.
"I think the backline was not really challenged today," Klinsmann said. "I was totally happy. It was all fine but there's not enough there to [make a determination]. For us, being the favorite and Cuba being a surprise going through, obviously the pressure is on us, the expectations are on us," he added. "You just want to make sure that [the players] get the message—that they start off with the right approach and the right attitude."

2. Perhaps a Momentum Boost?

The U.S. has had the edge in talent in every game it has played so far at the Gold Cup but was outplayed for long stretches by each of the three group stage opponents. By scoring early, the Americans were ble to execute their game plan and take Cuba out of the contest.
"I hope so. I am hoping that we can get some momentum from this game," Kyle Beckerman said. "Guys got some goal-scoring touches today. Aron got his first goal [of the tournament], Omar scored, Clint's hat trick—hopefully we can really use this game to push ourselves forward."
A win like this can be good and bad for any team. It can either lull players into a false sense of security or it can restore confidence and reduce tension. The general mood afterward seemed to be a U.S. team that was eager to take the game to the opponent early. It succeeded against Cuba and it will now aim to start of strong in the semifinal.
"We've got to think about it as a normal game," Ventura Alvarado said. "We have a semifinal now. We have to look for the game and keep our head up. Not wait for the other team to come first."

3. Dempsey is on a rampage

Clint Dempsey scored his first international hat trick against Cuba and he now has tournament-leading six goals over games and 47 total as a U.S. international. Klinsmann stripped Dempsey of his captaincy before the Gold Cup began and, whether liberated from a captain's responsibilities or determined to demonstrate his value to the team, the Texan is playing some of the best soccer of his career.

He has been consistently dangerous and his third goal Saturday night showcased his tremendous skill. So far, he is the best player at the Gold Cup.

4. Johannsson quietly progressing

While Dempsey has been bearing the burden of scoring, the game against Cuba showed that Aron Johannsson is looking to finally take the next step within the team. He has always been behind Dempsey, Altidore, and Wondolowski in the pecking order but his start signified that with Altidore gone, a starting striker position could be his for the taking.
Johannsson scored a terrific goal in the first half but he was consistently dangerous and he made several smart runs. His assist on Omar Gonzalez's goal was also well executed. Klinsmann singled out Johannsson afterward and hinted his role could be increasing.
"It's important to keep growing and get opportunities to score goals and when have them, put them in," Klinsmann said. "He was part of that. [Aron] was hungry, he was looking for the next opportunity. That builds more confidence. It gives you a little bit more standing within the group."

5. Corona looked happy to be back

While he only played the second half of a lopsided game, Joe Corona looked lively and connected well with his teammates. Kyle Beckerman was fine in the first half but there was little need for a pure defensive midfielder against Cuba. Corona came in and instantly looked to push the team forward.
Klinsmann's decision to remove Alfredo Morales from the roster and replace him with Corona looks to have been a wise one. Corona is a fluid passer and he knows what Klinsmann expects of him. It would not be surprising to see Corona earn important minutes as the tournment progresses. 
Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.

Post a comment