Landon Donovan, Joe Corona and Chris Wondolowski find the net as Jurgen Klinsmann's squad comes from behind to defeat the island nation.SANDY, Utah -- It was the perfect end after a surprisingly slow start.
The United States recovered from an early first-half deficit to coast to a 4-1 victory over Cuba at Rio Tinto Stadium in their second Gold Cup group match on Saturday afternoon.
Landon Donovan scored on a penalty kick, Joe Corona had the go-ahead goal with a brilliant long-distance strike and Chris Wondolowski finished with a brace as the Americans reached the quarterfinals with six points in two group games.
The U.S. has won seven straight game, tying a team record set in June 2007.
“Overall, the result is what we wanted,” said U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “Game was expected to be difficult, especially the first half because they’re sitting so deep with nine players in the box, and you’ve got to find a way to get through that.”
Jose Alfonso scored the opening goal for Cuba, which gave the U.S. quite a scare despite entering the match as major underdog.
The forward fired a bullet past Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando to shock the U.S. in the 37th minute. Midfielder Ariel Martinez beat Edgar Castillo to the right post and passed it back to the 21-year-old to give the Cubans their first lead against the U.S. since 2005.
The U.S. looked to have quickly responded to the early deficit when Landon Donovan put the ball in the back of the net off a setup header from Herculez Gomez, but it was called back for offside on Donovan.
With the momentum shifting the USA's way, the equalizer would finally come at the end of the first half after Castillo was taken down in the box by Yenier Marquez Molina. Donovan handled the penalty kick with ease, sending the keeper in the wrong direction, for his second goal of the Gold Cup.
Donovan now has 53 career goals, which is the most all-time in U.S. Soccer history.
“Coming out of the locker room, they had good energy and sometimes it happens the energy’s not there anymore once you start the game," said Klinsmann. "But you’ve got to work yourself into the game, which they eventually did."
The U.S. entered the second half in full control of the match and proved that it is perhaps the strongest team in the competition despite playing with its 'B' roster. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann had made six changes to his starting lineup from the USA's 6-1 win over Belize on Wednesday.
Corona was one of the five holdovers from the last game and proved to be worthy of another starting role. The Tijuana midfielder put the Americans ahead for good when he picked up a loose ball on the edge of the box and delivered a strike past goalkeeper Odelin Molina in the 57th minute.
It was Corona's first career international goal.
"We were trying to get a quick goal in the second half, so we could get that confidence back and try to play our game and try to get more goals," Corona said.
The U.S. then built a nice cushion less than 10 minutes later thanks to second-half sub Wondolowski, who has been on fire for the Stars and Stripes during his team's last three matches. The San Jose star redirected a Kyle Beckerman cross into the net for his fifth goal in three games and added No. 6 in the 85th minute.
Wondolowski had gone scoreless in his first nine international appearances before tallying his first in the USA's friendly victory over Guatemala on July 5 and followed that up with a hat trick against Belize in the USA's opening Gold Cup game.
"I'm very confident in my play," Wondolowski said. "Just even getting the goals is so huge. I'm feeling more confident in my passing and in my touch and things like that where it's helping me raise my level."
The U.S. will face Costa Rica on Tuesday.
“Costa Rica is the first real benchmark for us. Everybody has respect for Belize and Cuba, but the benchmark starts with Costa Rica. We are looking forward to that match,” said Klinsmann.