Three things we learned from USA’s victory over Cuba

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You pulled through guys… but you had us scared for a moment there.

Following the U.S. national team’s 4-1 comeback victory against Cuba on Saturday night, there are plenty of interesting narratives emanating from another comfortable victory (in the end) for Jurgen Klinsmann’s team.

Here we highlight three things we learned from the win over Cuba that saw the U.S. seal their passage to the Gold Cup quarterfinals.

Let’s break it down.

1. Chris Wondolowski must play more for the U.S. national team

Okay, so he’s scored six goals in his last three games against a weakened Guatemala outfit, Belize and Cuba… I can hear you haters already, but listen up. Wondolowski is a pure finisher, and his stock has risen dramatically during this Gold Cup. Arriving on the pitch during the second half, Wondo immediately made several intelligent runs in behind Cuba’s defense that weren’t spotted by the U.S. midfielders. Then he pounced after two fantastic passes from Kyle Beckerman and Edgar Castillo and finished with his usual aplomb. He did more during his short time in the pitch than Herculez Gomez did in the whole first half. He needs to play a bigger role in the World Cup qualifiers and the World Cup. Who would be better coming off the bench with the US down 1-0 with 10 minutes to go in Brazil next year? Nobody. The USA need a super-sub and an impact player. “Wondowlowski” is your man.

2. Defensive issues continue to crop up

Yes the USA are scoring bucket loads of goals – 16 in their last three games if your counting – but defensive mistakes are still happening. For Cuba’s opener Castillo got sucked into the play and exposed the whole U.S. backline by getting beaten to the byline. Then captain Oguchi Onyewu was slow to react and let Jose Alfonso nip in front of him to score. Sluggish defending cropped up, and these defenders playing this way means they’re unlikely to oust any of the USMNT regulars. For large spells the U.S. dominated Cuba, but defenders need to stay switched on. Look what happened away to Jamaica last month when Jermaine Beckford scored from a set piece to equalize late. Silly mistakes will cost the US if they keep cropping up between now and World Cup 2014.

3. Klinsmann is getting incredibly good at altering the approach mid-game

Poor ball retention, lethargic movement and a lack of pace all played a part in the USA’s pedestrian first half display. But whatever Klinsmann said to his side at halftime obviously worked as they came out rejuvenated and finished off the Cubans. The speed of play increased dramatically in the second period and the US were able to get the ball wide quicker. Brek Shea disappointed out on the left and his replacement Jose Torres offered much more drifting inside. Kyle Beckerman and Stuart Holden were more positive when in possession and Castillo and Joe Corona kept driving forward at every opportunity. Klinsmann must’ve urged his side to attack during his locker room chat at the half. The U.S. were more direct and the movement was phenomenal between Donovan and the midfielders in the second half. Cuba couldn’t handle it. More of the same please, Jurgen.

More: USA beat Cuba 4-1 to make Gold Cup quarterfinals

More: Wondolowski reveals hidden “W” in jersey, as misspelling does the trick again

USMNT eyeing the table as it kicks off training camp

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (AP) Goalkeeper Tim Howard‘s uniform was filled with grass stains after the first day of training camp.

And this was considered a light workout.

“Just getting everybody back together, getting a sweat,” Howard said Monday after the U.S. squad went through a roughly 60-minute workout. “Day by day, we’re just trying to add on to the pile, put some concepts in and get some understanding between players.”

What awaits the squad in resumption of the final round of World Cup qualifying is certainly a gantlet. They have a game against Trinidad and Tobago on June 8 in Commerce City and then at Mexico three days later.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

There’s little margin for error, with the U.S. currently in fourth place in the six-team standings. They have three home and three away matches remaining. The top three teams qualify, with the fourth-place squad going to a playoff against Asia’s No. 5 nation.

“We need to keep climbing that table. We feel like this is a good opportunity to do it,” said Howard, now with the Colorado Rapids and who will feel right at home with the Trinidad game on his turf at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. “One game, that’s as far as you can look. You can’t look to next week or the week after or two months from now.”

For now, Howard will be coach Bruce Arena’s goalkeeper over Brad Guzan, Ethan Horvath and Nick Rimando, who all were invited to camp. But it’s an ongoing evaluation.

“We have good goalkeepers here. That’s the least of my worries, to be honest,” Arena said.

Given the short amount of time between games, Arena fully plans on using more players than usual. One particular competition to watch will be at right back between Timmy Chandler and DeAndre Yedlin.

“I have a close eye on everything,” Arena said. “We have a bunch of good players here. … We’re watching everybody and thinking about how we can best utilize everyone.”

[ MORE: Kroenke, Wenger meet; Decision looms ]

The roster features a solid blend of youth and experience. Leading the youngsters is Christian Pulisic, the 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder who last weekend became the youngest American to win a club medal in Europe.

On the veteran side are players such as Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley and Howard, all of whom have more than 30 World Cup qualifying appearances.

“We’re past the experimentation phase. These are all guys who the manager believes in whole-heartedly,” Howard said. “They’re not here for anything other than to play minutes, play important minutes.”

Arena couldn’t agree more.

“This is a nice group we have here. Hopefully, we can find the right balance in the team, putting them in the right position to complement them both individually and collectively,” Arena said. “If we can accomplish that, there’s no reason to believe we can’t be successful in these two games.”

Joining the camp in Colorado are a few players who weren’t with the squad in March. Guzan, Chandler, Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood and Yedlin are all on the field. Guzan didn’t participate because his wife was expecting their second child, while the others were dealing with injuries, illnesses and yellow-card suspension.

Now, it’s a matter of getting their timing down – and accustomed to the altitude.

“There’s no reason to make it an excuse,” midfielder Paul Arriola said. “Just doing the best we can to acclimate to it.”

Arena’s squad will get things rolling in a friendly against Venezuela in Sandy, Utah, on Saturday.

“That’s a good game for us,” Arena said. “It gives us a little bit of exercise at lower altitude, which isn’t perfect for what we need to do to get ready here and Mexico City, but it’s a start. Think it will be good to give a chance to 16 players and build from there – get us ready for Trinidad and Mexico.”

Stam after Reading playoff final loss: “Tough to take”

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Jaap Stam has won silverware in three different leagues for five different teams, and has a Champions League title from his time at Manchester United.

He’s used to winning, and that includes his first stop as a full-time manager. And that makes Reading’s loss in Monday’s playoff final sting a bit more.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

Reading lost in penalty kicks and it’s not like the Royals were thoroughly outclassed by Huddersfield Town. But it still burns. From Sky Sports:

“You don’t want to play football to be in the grey areas, you want to get the max out of your career, win trophies and play at the highest level.

“It’s tough to take, but it has to be difficult. It’s not good to lose a game like this, you need to feel it and experience it and then take that forward if you get into the same moment again. The good players do that.”

Reading loses a trio of loan players — Lewis Grabban, Reece Oxford, and Jordon Mutch — as well as American midfielder Danny Williams. It won’t be easy for Reading to get back into the playoffs without an injection of money, but Stam’s first rodeo as a manager was a good ride that came up just short.

Wenger, Kroenke meet; Board to learn decision Tues.

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Wenger watch is entering its final hours.

The BBC is reporting that Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke met with longtime manager Arsene Wenger on Monday to discuss the Frenchman’s future, and that the decision was going to be made together.

[ MORE: Wenger would pay Sanchez, Ozil ]

It seems almost certain that Wenger is going to come back to the Emirates Stadium. From the BBC:

The outcome is unclear but the decision rests solely with Wenger and Kroenke and will be relayed to directors at a Tuesday board meeting.

Fresh terms were agreed in principle some months ago, but nothing is signed.

There have been questions about whether Wenger would accept a sporting director being placed above him, and if Kroenke believes the repercussions of keeping the boss would negatively impact the business.

Barcelona to keep goalkeeper Ter Stegen until 2022

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says it has reached a deal to extend the contract of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen until June 2022.

The club said the new agreement, which has a buyout clause of 180 million euros ($201 million), will be signed on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Yaya to stay at Man City ]

Ter Stegen has been with the club since 2014, helping it win nine titles in three seasons.

The German goalkeeper has played 93 matches with Barcelona, conceding 90 goals in 71 wins, 10 draws and 12 losses.

Barcelona has already renewed the contracts of Javier Mascherano, Luis Suarez, Neymar, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic. It is still working on new deals for Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.