Team USA tops gritty Cuba 4-1
By JOHN COON
SANDY, Utah — Chris Wondolowski is making a case that he should be included in the United States roster when World Cup qualifying resumes in September.
Wondolowski — with his jersey name spelled correctly this time — scored two more goals to raise his total to five in two matches, and the Americans overcame a slow start to beat Cuba 4-1 Saturday and advance to the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals. He became the first American with five goals in one Gold Cup tournament.
Landon Donovan tied the score late in the first half when converted his second penalty kick of the tournament for his 53rd international goal. Joe Corona got his first international goal early in the second, and Stuart Holden made his first start in nearly three years for the U.S. (2-0), which has reached the quarterfinals of all 12 Gold Cups.
The US won its seventh straight game, tying a team record set in June 2007.
While Wondolowski has led or tied Major League Soccer in goals for three straight seasons, he hadn’t scored for the national team in 11 appearances before getting his first in an exhibition win over Guatemala on July 5.
“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 to raise my level.”
Wondolowski scored a first-half hat trick in Tuesday’s 6-1 win over Belize, when his jersey was misspelled “Wondowlowski.” He started this match on the bench, then replaced Herculez Gomez in the 58th and scored the final two goals in the 66th and 85th minutes. Superstitious, he had an extra “W” stitched on the inside of his jersey.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said the 30-year-old San Jose forward was a bit disappointed he wasn’t in the starting 11.
“He’s hungry, and he’s working a lot,” Klinsmann said. “It’s not only that he has the instincts to know where the ball will be in the box. It’s also the runs he makes to open things up. It opens channels for the other guys.”
Wondolowski, Donovan and Holden all are making a case to be included in the player pool for World Cup qualifiers at Costa Rica on Sept. 6 and at home against Mexico four days later.
Donovan, a veteran of three World Cups hasn’t played for the national team in 11 months before the Guatemala match because of injuries and a four-month sabbatical from soccer that ended in late March.
Holden made his first start for the U.S. since an exhibition against Colombia on Oct. 12, 2010. A knee injury the following March sustained from a tackle by Manchester United’s Jonny Evans limited the Bolton midfielder to one club match in the next 22 months.
The Americans, who have not won the North and Central American and Caribbean championship since 2007, complete the first round Tuesday against Costa Rica in East Hartford, Conn., then play their quarterfinal at Baltimore on July 21.
Cuba, ranked 82nd by FIFA — a full 60 spots behind the U.S. — gave the Americans an unexpected test.
Before a crowd of 17,597 at Rio Tinto Stadium, Jose Ciprian Alfonso put Cuba (0-2) ahead in the 36th minute. He beat defender Oguchi Onyewu to a cutback pass from Ariel Martinez, who has rounded left back Edgar Castillo near the end line. Ciprian Alfonso then sent a right-footed shot past goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Donovan tied the score in the second minute of stoppage time with a penalty kick, extending his U.S. scoring record.
Corona finally gave the Americans lead in the 57th when he latched onto a loose ball and let loose a curling a shot from the edge of the penalty area.
“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.
Wondolowski made it 3-1 with his a close-range flick off a cross from Kyle Beckerman. He finished off the scoring from the center of the penalty area.
NOTES: The Americans are 27-1-2 in the group phase of the Gold Cup, the only loss 2-1 to Panama two years ago. … The U.S. improved to 8-1-1 against Cuba. .. Donovan has a Gold Cup-record 15 goals. … Cuba is winless in 12 straight Gold Cup matches. . … A former youth player for Norway, Diskerud became tied to the U.S. team when he started against Belize. … Onyewu was captain for the second time and first since the Colombia match three years ago.
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