USA beat Cuba 4-1 to make Gold Cup quarterfinals

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The US national team overturned a first half deficit to defeat Cuba 4-1 on Saturday night in Utah.

A lively crowd gathered to cheer on the USA, but they were left reeling after a spirited effort from Cuba in the first half.

However the Yanks got their act together in the second period as the comeback victory was sealed by two goals from substitute Chris Wondolowski and strikes from Joe Corona and Landon Donovan. The win was also the USA’s seventh victory in a row, tying their all-time record.

And Jurgen Klinsmann’s side are now through to the quarterfinal stages of the Gold Cup for the 13th consecutive time.

In what was a largely sluggish first half display from the Nats in sunny Utah, the Cubans grew in stature as they continued to thwart the USA with solid defense.

And after 36 minutes Cuba got their reward for being patient.

Left back Edgar Castillo was left flat footed by Cuba’s speedy attacker Ariel Martinez and captain Oguchi Onyewu was caught napping to allow Jose Alfonso to score and give Cuba a shock 1-0 lead. Cuba had their tails up after their opening goal as they searched for just their second win in Gold Cup history.

There were a few half chances for the USA from set pieces, but Klinsmann’s men really didn’t get going at all in the first half.

Donovan missed a clear header at the back post in the 42nd minute and in the 43rd minute the US thought they were back level, as Donovan slotted home Herculez Gomez’ knockdown from close range. But the assistant raised his flag as the LA Galaxy forward strayed offside by about a yard.

(MORE: Three things we learned from U.S. victory over Cuba)

That could have changed the whole outlook of the game. But luckily the turning point arrived soon after.

Right on half time a surging run from Brek Shea created the opening as Castillo played a one-two with Donovan and the Club Tijuana man was brought down in the box. The referee pointed to the spot and Donovan stepped up to score his 53rd goal for the US to make it 1-1.

Brek Shea got injured at the end of the half and was replaced by Jose Torres at the break. Shea did well in stages but certainly struggled to emulate the form he found whilst at FC Dallas.

Cuban goalkeeper Odelin Molina was in fine form to stop the US from taking the lead early in the second half, saving Michael Orozco’s header in the 49th minute.

The US kept pushing hard and finally went ahead in the 57th minute when Joe Corona blasted home from the edge of the box. The goal was his first international goal and a sweet strike from the Club Tijuana attacker.

But less than a minute after Corona put the U.S. ahead, Onyewu looked to have given away a penalty after a clumsy tackle on Alfonso. Onyewu’s lunge inside the box was waved away and replays showed that he did get his foot to the ball, just. Nevertheless, the Cuban players were incensed with the referees decision.

Chris Wondolowski jumped off the bench to put the USA up 3-1, continuing his terrific form for the national team. The San Jose Earthquakes striker pounced to prod home Kyle Beckerman’s teasing ball in the 65th minute.

(MORE: Wondolowski revealed hidden “W” on jersey, as misspelling does the trick again)

Despite the USA dominating for large spells as they game closed out, Cuba were still dangerous on the break as Nick Rimando was forced into a good smothering save in the 80th minute.

But the predatory instincts of Wondolowski showed up once more as he scored his sixth goal in three games for the USA, after being slotted in beautifully by Castillo in the 85th minute.

Klinsmann’s men saw off the game with relative ease after an early scare, as the US comfortably sealed their passage into the Gold Cup knockout stages.

Who is Kenny Saief, and other USMNT Gold Cup personnel questions

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Kenny Saief is an 23-year-old American left-sided player with UEFA Champions League experience.

So why do we know so little about the Miami-born man?

The answer is pretty straight-forward: Saief’s entire career has been under-the-radar. After coming up through a series of Israeli teams, he moved to KAA Gent in Belgium. None of those matches, even adding in his representing the full Israel national team twice, got a ton of play on American soil.

[ MORE: Saul scores stunner for Spain U-21s ]

So when Saief filed his one-time switch to represent the United States, paving the way for a USMNT call-up for this summer’s Gold Cup, even those of us who’d followed his career from afar had put a limited amount of actual observation on match footage.

So here’s the long-and-short:

  • Saief turns 24 in December.
  • He moved to Gent from Israeli second tier side Ramat haSharon in 2014.
  • Played a total of 35 minutes in friendlies versus Serbia and Croatia.
  • Saief has 20 total appearances between the Europa and Champions Leagues.
  • Posted a UCL assist versus Wolfsburg in the 2015-16 Round of 16.
  • Had goal, 2 assists in UEL this season, played 180 mins vs. Spurs.
  • Has 15 goals, 9 assists in 107 apps for Gent.

Saief should get an opportunity to make an impact for Bruce Arena’s USMNT, perhaps as soon as Saturday’s friendly against Ghana in East Hartford.

Who else stands a chance to gain the most from this tournament?

Joe Corona — The 26-year-old made his thirst-inducing name in American soccer circles by scoring a pair of goals in the 2013 Gold Cup, but has just 17 caps to his name. His call-up over veterans like Benny Feilhaber and Sacha Kljestan either shows how high he’s risen or how far those veterans have fallen.

Cristian Roldan — Seattle’s hard-nosed midfielder was playing college ball at Washington just three years ago, and it’s not crazy to think strong performances could boost him onto the radar of bigger clubs abroad (let alone make him a mainstay along Kellyn Acosta with the USMNT).

Dom Dwyer — If Roldan’s rise is surprising, Dwyer’s really is astounding. It’s easy to forget that the Sporting KC star forward was playing junior college soccer in 2010 before spending one season of Division I soccer with South Florida. Now he has 57 MLS goals and a look at becoming the clinical finisher the American side has wanted for some time.

Justin Morrow and Eric Lichaj — The 29- and 28-year-old fullbacks would love to prove their mettle is as good if not better than Jorge Villafana, the current front-runner to start at left back should the Yanks complete their revitalized run to the World Cup. Lichaj, a Nottingham Forest veteran, is also adept at right back.

This isn’t to say that Juan Agudelo and Kelyn Rowe won’t benefit from strong tournaments, but the names above have either been rescued from soccer’s scrap heap or at least Jurgen Klinsmann’s prison.

PODCAST: Bob Bradley talks MLS past, USMNT

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Scott Nicholls and Otis Earle welcomed Bob Bradley to their “Beyond The Pitch” podcast to discuss his time coaching the Chicago Fire, the Fire’s current squad, how MLS has evolved, the new generation of players coming into the USMNT and more.

Perhaps most interesting is Bradley talking about previous losses with stinging emotion that sounds like they happened yesterday, including the 2000 MLS Cup.

[ MORE: Latest Men In Blazers pod ]

Since being fired from Swansea City after less than 100 days, Bradley has been linked with the Norway national team gig as well as a return to Los Angeles. Keep up with the U.S. coach here, and check out the podcast here:

U.S. Open Cup preview: Which underdog has best odds?

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Every dog has its day, and the three lower-tier clubs remaining in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup are hoping for a second.

Miami FC, Sacramento Republic, and FC Cincinnati enjoyed wins over Major League Soccer sides in the fourth round, and now get further MLS tests in this week’s fifth round.

[ MORE: Lampard linked with manager opening ]

Once FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids tangle on Tuesday, attention turns to the underdogs on Wednesday. Who has the best chance to advance?

  1. Miami FC vs. Atlanta United — Playing an MLS expansion side at Riccardo Silva Stadium will give Miami a bit of confidence, and this is also a side with some good experience in pressure spots. Whether it’s manager Alessandro Nesta or MLS vets Michel, Gabriel Farfan, and Michael Lahoud, MFC won’t shy away. Upset chance: Solid.
  2. FC Cincinnati vs. Chicago Fire — The visitors are having a heck of a season in MLS and don’t have a group which will be worried by a huge crowd, but there’s no debating that 25,000-plus in Southern Ohio give FCC more than a puncher’s chance. Upset chance: Improbable, but possible
  3. LA Galaxy vs. Sacramento Republic — If LA puts something close to its best side out there, Sacramento will struggle to stop its attack.  Upset chance: Long shot.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, New England hosts DC United, Philadelphia visits the Red Bulls, Seattle is off to San Jose, and Houston hosts Sporting KC.

WATCH: Spain’s Saul smashes a shot past Italy’s Donnarumma

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Since returning from a loan at Rayo Vallecano, Saul Niguez has been a somewhat under the radar star at Atletico Madrid.

Coming off his best season with Atleti, the 22-year-old Saul is making an even bigger name for himself at the U-21 EURO this summer.

Spain’s Saul scored a hat trick past Gianluigi Donnarumma and Italy on Tuesday, and the second goal was laced with venom.

Getting onto the ball from 30-plus yards out, Saul smashed his shot with enough power that the ball barely had occasion to rotate.

Saul is under contract at the Vicente Calderon through 2022, and has three caps for Spain’s senior team, too. He was rated Atleti’s third-best performer by WhoScored this season.