Chris Wondolowski and Julian Green got the goals as the U.S. national team picked up an ugly, choppy victory in Cuba on Friday, the first time the senior squad played a game on Cuban soil since 1947.
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For the most part, the Yanks escaped the bumpy, cratered field at the Estadio Pedro Marrero in Havana without incident. Christian Pulisic was clattered by hard challenges on numerous occasions in the first half, and was subbed off after 45 minutes. Steve Birnbaum was less fortunate, as the D.C. United defender received studs to the top of his head, opening up a gushing wound with 10 minutes left to go in the game.
All three of the USMNT’s first-half shots on target came via Green, a surprise inclusion in Jurgen Klinsmann’s starting lineup. The best of the bunch played out in the 23rd minute, when the Bayern Munich youngster broke down the left flank, cut into the penalty area, cut back toward the end line, and fired a left-footed shot low, but right at Cuban goalkeeper Sandy Sanchez, who made the kick save with the ball headed for the far post.
Cuba nearly opened the scoring long after, in the 28th minute, Roberney Caballero unleashed a speculative effort from from outside the penalty area. The ball looked headed for the inside of the far post, but 21-year-old goalkeeper Ethan Horvath, the youngest player to start in goal for the USMNT since 1994 (Zach Thornton), which occurred before Horvath was born, got fingertips to the ball and pushed it wide.
Maikel Reyes went inches from giving Cuba the lead just before the hour mark. The Cruz Azul striker raced down the right side of the field and into the penalty area, where he unloaded on Horvath with a shot to the near post, but came up with only woodwork as the ball clanged off the inside of the post and shot across the face of goal behind an unknowing Horvath.
Three minutes later, in the 62nd, the Yanks were on the scoreboard. Green cut inside from the left wing to fire a right-footed shot at Sanchez, who made the initial save. The rebound, unfortunately for Sanchez, fell right to the feet of Wondolowski, who hammered the ball into an empty net for the 11th goal of his international career.
Green grabbed a goal of his own — deservedly so, it must be said — to make it 2-0 in the 71st minute. It was Wondolowski who provided the assist, a simple cross across the face of goal with Green in all alone at the back post.
The USMNT’s final game before its World Cup qualifying showdown with Mexico, in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 11, will be a friendly against New Zealand at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., (8 p.m. ET) on Tuesday.