Three things we learned from USA’s victory over Cuba

11 Comments

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

Teammates appear to stop Marega leaving after racist slurs

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LIBSON, Portugal — FC Porto striker Moussa Marega, who tried to walk off the field after being the target of racist slurs from fans, faced apparent attempts Sunday by his own teammates and opposition players to prevent him from leaving.

Marega, who is black and from Mali, was visibly angered by monkey noises targeting him after he scored Porto’s second goal in a 2-1 win at Guimarães in the Portuguese football league.

But when Marega started to walk off the field, several players from both Porto and Guimarães appeared to argue with him. Porto coach Sérgio Conceição also went on the field and spoke with Marega.

It took Marega several minutes to leave the field when he was substituted.

Marega held his thumbs down at the crowd as he went into the tunnel to the changing rooms. The crowd responded with loud jeers.

The attitude of the other players has drawn criticism on social media.

“We are indignant with what has happened. Moussa was insulted from warmups (before kickoff),” Conceição said after the match.

“We are a family. One’s nationality, color, or height does not matter. We are human beings. We deserve respect and what happened was despicable.”

Marega received a yellow card following his goal in the 61st minute when he appeared to respond to the slurs by pointing at his skin and by picking up a seat that had been thrown on the pitch.

Timothy Weah returns to action with Lille after lengthy| absence

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Timothy Weah was back in action in Lille’s 2-1 loss to Marseille on Sunday after a 183-day absence.

The American attacker played the final 10 minutes of the defeat after being inactive since Lille’s second match of the season back in August 17 in which he suffered a “very bad hamstring tear“.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Weah arrived at Lille in June on a $12 million deal from Paris Saint-Germain, placing high expectations on the 19-year-old son of Ballon d’OR winner George Weah.

Since, however, the U.S. men’s national team player has had little activity with the French side, accumulating less than 100 minutes over a three-game stretch.

Lille manager Christophe Galtier will likely ease Weah’s way into the a starting role moving forward – which is largely contingent on his performances at practice and in official play.

Lille, who’ve accumulated 40 points in 25 matches, are currently fourth in Ligue 1.

WATCH: Ashley Young opens his Inter Milan account with volley

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The first English goalscorer in Serie A this decade is 34-year-old Ashley Young.

Inter Milan’s newly-integrated wingback opened his Serie A account in proper fashion – scoring with a first-time right-footed volley strike against a strong Lazio side.

Why did Manchester United let Young walk away from Old Trafford during the winter transfer window? Surely, Young will answer that in detail when the time is right. At this moment, he’s too busy scoring goals – stellar ones, too – as we can see for ourselves above.

Young arrived at Inter in January on a reported $2-million deal for the remainder of the season, with an option to extend for another season.

Arsenal laud star man Ceballos

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LONDON — Arsenal hammered Newcastle on Sunday and to make sure you have every angle covered for the marquee Premier League games, our new feature “In the Mixed Zone” will take you behind-the-scenes and into the tunnel areas to hear from the star players moments after their magic has decided games or drama has ensued.

[ MORE: In the Mixed Zone

The idea is to set the scene of being inside the tunnel area in Old Trafford, by the dugouts at Stamford Bridge and in the swanky new players area in Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium as Premier League stars walk out of the dressing room and break down the game with media members around the world. We will tell you what they are saying and the kind of antics going on amid the hubbub of the mixed zone as players from both teams have their say on the 90-plus minutes of action we’ve just witnessed.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Here’s the scene from deep inside the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal’s players were very willing to stop and chat after the 4-0 win but Newcastle’s players were not as Martn Dubravka and Valentino Lazaro were the only two who wanted to discuss the drubbing as the scoreline flattered Arsenal a little.


WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Arsenal center back David Luiz, looking toasty on a chilly London evening in his Rag and Bone beanie, was full of praise for central midfielder Dani Ceballos.

Asked by Pro Soccer Talk about the Spanish midfielder playing in a slightly deeper role and dominating the game with his slick passing, Luiz is clearly a fan of the man on loan from Real Madrid.

“He is a great player. He is a player who is improving and working very well every single day,” Luiz said. “I think this kind of mentality is what we need for the team. He started very well when he came, he got an injury, he went and came back, he lost his position, he lost a bit of game time. He was trying to improve his game and in the moment that he has the opportunity he shows that he is a great player, like he did today. I think this is the kind of mentality that we need in the team. Big teams who win titles don’t just depend on 11 players. We need more players who are always ready to help. Dani showed that today, even the boys who came into the game showed the right mentality. I think we are improving because of that and we are understanding what we need to be a big team.”

Arteta also waxed lyrical about the performance of Ceballos, who walked through the mixed zone wearing a Louis Vuitton backpack which was designed like a soccer ball. My goodness, it was awesome. Also, how much do we estimate that cost!? Anyway, here’s Mikel…

“Dani Ceballos is a good example. He was injured and when he started to train I didn’t think he was fit enough. He completely changed his behavior and trained like an animal. I thought he was the best player on the pitch,” Arteta said.

As Ceballos is pushing for a permanent move to Arsenal and a place in Spain’s EURO 2020 squad, expect plenty more displays like this.

Alexandre Lacazette also stopped for a chat and was very positive about Arsenal’s performance, while Bukayo Saka was also extremely happy with his display. Shkodran Mustafi and Bernd Leno weren’t keen to stop for a chat but that’s probably because they were heading off towards Highbury and Islington tube station to down a few pints…


ALL ABOARD THE BANTER BUS

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang walked out and had a chuckle as the media lined up to speak to Luiz and then said something to him in French. Auba didn’t stop, while Hector Bellerin and Lucas Torreira nodded as they headed towards the exit.


MIXEDZONEOLOGY

Newcastle’s players did the classic move of walking behind the sponsorship boards and out of the exit. Danny Rose, on loan at Newcastle from Spurs, was in and out of the tunnel area as he tried to keep a low profile. Clever boy.

Arsenal’s sporting director Edu said hello and looked pretty happy after that win. He emerged from the elevator a few minutes later wearing a red and white scarf around his neck. A proper club man.


HERO OF THE MIXED ZONE

Congrats to Martin Dubravka, he is actually one of the nicest blokes in the game. The Slovakian goalkeeper is the most worked goalkeeper in the PL, according to stats released over the weekend, and despite letting in four goals and not covering himself in glory for Ozil’s goal, Dubravka spoke to the press. We appreciate that.