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Shorthanded Cuba no problem for rampant Americans
by Ridge Mahoney, March 23rd, 2012 1:09AM

TAGS:  olympics


[USA-CUBA] A 6-0 thrashing of Cuba in its Concacaf Olympic qualifying opener Thursday didn't stretch the U.S. under-23s to any significant extent, yet it offered an intriguing glimpse into the possibilities of the players and tactics at the disposal of Coach Caleb Porter.

Well, now we know the U.S. under-23 team can exploit a weak Concacaf opponent reduced to 10 men.

We also know that Joe Benny Corona, who has shown an affinity to score goals with his club team by opportunistic finishing, can do the same in other environments. He scored three weeks ago in a 2-0 defeat of Mexico, and at LP Field in Nashville struck three goals against a feeble Cuban team devastated, both numerically and psychologically, by a straight red card meted out to Dario Macias in the 19th minute.

By then, the Americans already led, 1-0, on Corona’s finish of a rebound given up by Cuba keeper Odisnel Cooper. He came out for a Freddy Adu free kick he could have caught but under pressure instead punched it right to Corona, who knocked it past Cooper into the net.

Macias got his red card for tussling for a ball with Juan Agudelo, whose scrappy challenge prompted the Cuban player to lash out with his elbow. His dismissal greatly eased the Americans’ task, and from that point they dominated play with intertwined sequences of passing and movement as fatigue and confusion turned many of the Cubans into statues for long periods.

Midfielders Corona, Mix Diskerud and Jared Jeffrey functioned smoothly to link the back four with the front three: Brek Shea usually on the left, Agudelo centrally, and Adu on the right wing. Diskerud orchestrated many of the attacks and also took most of the set plays, displaying an impressive array of passes delivered at myriad angles and distances.

Jeffrey served as a pivot in front of the back four, and exploited the space and time afforded him to supply outlet passes in all directions. He played a bit deeper than Diskerud, who ranged forward and out wide to find the forwards or play well-timed balls for Corona. Jeffrey seldom needed to break up an attack or push the ball forward and one occasion in the first half lost a duel a few yards outside his own penalty area.

Except for a few isolated moments when a Cuban attacker battled his way into a position to take a shot or deliver a cross, the Americans  smothered their opponent. The defenders seldom resorted to the long ball, preferring to find an open teammate upfield or move the ball along their line until space opened up. Keeper Bill Hamid used his rare touches effectively by firing the ball out to a teammate on the bounce or along the ground. He made just one save.

The Cubans wanted no part of Shea, whose marauding runs up left side provided a ball that Agudelo converted for the second goal, and another that bounced off defender Arturo Diz Pe for the fourth. Those goals in the final minutes of the first half, tacked onto Corona’s cleverly sliced finish of a Diskerud square pass, provided a 4-0 halftime lead. In the second half Adu hit a blast from distance and Corona, again set up by Diskerud, completed his hat trick in the final minutes.

In the other Group A match, El Salvador and Canada played a 0-0 tie. The Canadians are next for the Americans on Saturday, and off their opening performance will need to step up their pressure to counteract a very fluid and cohesive U.S. attack.

  1. Luis Arreola
    commented on: March 23, 2012 at 8:03 a.m.
    Wow, Corona a scoring talent. What a surprise!!

  1. John Munnell
    commented on: March 23, 2012 at 8:51 a.m.
    Hard to make any useful evaluation from this match. Early section littered with nervous touches and little imagination. After that, the Cubans broke and offered minimal resistance. Even with the US able to knock the ball around at will, I was disappointed with the lack of quality. There did seem to be a framework, so I'll look for better things against a better opponent.

  1. Eric in DC
    commented on: March 23, 2012 at 9:47 a.m.
    Agree that you can't make much of this game, score line. Macias's red card hurt them too. But my Cuban bros were embarrassingly easy to beat. They didn't even touch for the first 10 minutes or so. My big question is which member of the Cuban team will try to defect? Hopefully, one of them to put one in the net first...

  1. James Froehlich
    commented on: March 23, 2012 at 10:29 a.m.
    The only good to come out of this match is that we have identified a cool, calm, collected striker in Joe "Benny" Corona. As usual, Ridge downplays the obvious, Corona's clinical finishing, and emphasizes the non-existent, the midfield "functioned smoothly". The midfield passing and interplay was so bad I turned the game off at the half. What happened to the team that played Mexico -- hopefully this is just a case of nerves and playing down to the competition.

  1. David Sirias
    commented on: March 23, 2012 at 10:44 a.m.
    I don't see why you guys are do harsh After a few minutes of nerves the guys did well and if cuba had played with 11 they would have attacked and got slaughtered on the counter Diskerud is the key. Smooth as silk Why porter asked him to take those low hard corners I don't know. But I trust there was a reason Porter knows what he's doing IMHO Agudelo still doesn't know what to do with the ball at his feet Sure he's a finisher. But so is Corona but light years ahead in terms of off the ball Porter had shown that Freddy is a weapon if used properly. I assure you Nowak would have screwed up this team. Look at USA Cuba 4 years ago. The outside backs are weak in attack. Porters system needs them to contribute there. Maybe that is where we will see the overages Teal bunbury really has been exposed as not ready even for this. He needs up go home and work hard The hope comes from the system. Porter knows what he wants. 433 Skills in tight spaces and 11 brains working together Frankly I think he's creating much of what Klinsmann will using in 2014 and beyond

  1. Roger Sokol
    commented on: March 23, 2012 at 10:47 a.m.
    Also agree about making much of the game. However, Corona's first goal was an eye opener because of the deft clinical finish. That's not something we've seen very often with many USMNT players. Also liked the chemistry and approach of the team. Players worked hard off the ball to present teammates with options. Players with the ball seemed to do intelligent things with it.

  1. Brian Damphousse
    commented on: March 23, 2012 at 11:36 a.m.
    "We also know that Joe Benny Corona, who has shown an affinity to score goals with his club team by opportunistic finishing, can do the same in other environments. He scored three weeks ago in a 2-0 defeat of Mexico..." OK, I'll ask, after having waited for a correction: Weren't the goalscorers in the recent win over Mexico Agudelo and Diskerud?

  1. tim francis
    commented on: March 23, 2012 at 11:47 a.m.
    I just caught the second half, and was amazed to see a US team possess the ball for an average well over the usual 3- pass average. Yes, its a lot easier against a weakened/beaten opponent, but the consistent ability to try and do so--even under pressure showed a lot of promise. Caleb, a great choice to coach, is carrying on his great work at Akron.

  1. john haley
    commented on: March 23, 2012 at 12:48 p.m.
    Our players are very talented, so this is not meant to be demeaning, but Cuba is a baseball country. They do not invest as much into soccer as do most other countries. I would like to see a stronger opponent face our boys. I believe they have the potential to be the best.

  1. Jared Bartlam
    commented on: March 23, 2012 at 1:23 p.m.
    Not sure why everyone was disappointed as after the first 5 or so minutes the squad took over on possession and moved the ball around every well. The goals weren't all great but still had some very good ones, ie Corona's volley, Adu's shot from the 18, and the Shea to Agudelo. As far as the outside backs, it will help when Williams and Chandler gets in the squad for the Olympics as the backline will become L-R Chandler Williams Opara Gatt or if you want to use one overage go L-R F.Johnson Williams Opara Chandler.

  1. Raveen Rama
    commented on: March 23, 2012 at 4:57 p.m.
    It is not a true indication of the strengths of a team when it plays against a team of 10 players. I think the fowl on Agudelo was accidential and should not have been a red card decision. Anyway, the US performance did display great soccer, and is an indication of good things to come.

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