Scouting Report: USA will change things up for Cuba

The USA returns to the knockout stage of the Gold Cup, where it has been eliminated before the semifinals only once in 12 previous trips -- in a shootout to Colombia in 2000. It would be one of the great upsets in the history of American soccer if the USA loses to Cuba on Saturday in Baltimore. The game will be a chance for the USA to adjust its lineup and hopefully find the flow that eluded it in an often painful group stage.

1. Replacements for Brooks and Altidore.

We know of two lineup changes for sure from the starting lineup in the USA's 2-1 win over Honduras to open the tournament. Center back John Brooks is suspended for the quarterfinals, and forward Jozy Altidore has been sent home by Jurgen Klinsmann because of fitness issues.

USA-Cuba, Gold Cup:
1998: USA 2-0 (group stage)
2002: USA 1-0 (group stage)
2003: USA 5-0 (quarterfinals)
2005: USA 4-1 (group stage)
2013: USA 4-1 (group stage)

Omar Gonzalez should replace Brooks and start alongside Ventura Alvarado, reuniting the pair that played so well together in the 2-0 win over Mexico on April 15.

As for Altidore's replacement, Gyasi Zardes will likely start up front with Alejandro Bedoya taking Zardes' place in midfield. If Bedoya, who himself has battled fitness issues, can't go, Klinsmann will likely start Aron Johannsson up front and push Zardes back into midfield, where he started the Gold Cup.

Zardes started up front against Panama in the final group match on Monday and frankly struggled as the point of the attack. But he played better in the second half when Clint Dempsey entered the game.

2. Where will the flow come from?

In the first three games at the 2015 Gold Cup, the USA struggled to create any kind of flow to its game and produced just 20 shots. Two years ago, the USA had 49 shots after three games, albeit 42 of them against Belize and Cuba in 6-1 and 4-1 wins.

The tougher competition from Honduras, Haiti and Panama made it more difficult, but Klinsmann also blamed the nature of the tournament. "There’s no real preparation for the Gold Cup," he told, "so it’s difficult to be in a flow, it’s difficult to be playing in a way that you’re going to see a lot of automatic things, in the way of passing flow and fine tuning elements."

July 18 in Baltimore

USA vs. Cuba (match 19), 5 pm ET
Jamaica vs. Haiti (match 20), 8 pm ET
July 19 in East Rutherford, N.J.
Trinidad & Tobago vs. Panama (match 21), 4:30 pm ET
Mexico vs. Costa Rica (match 22), 7:30 pm ET

To date, the USA has gotten very little out of its outside backs and wingers. Fabian Johnson was the best U.S. weapon at the 2014 World Cup but he's been largely invisible on the offensive end at left back. In another way, the Cuba game will be key to getting Kyle Beckerman going. So many of the best U.S. matches have come when Beckerman pulled the strings -- creating Klinsmann's "passing flow" -- from his holding midfield position. In his two starts at the Gold Cup, Beckerman has been very quiet.

3. What role for DaMarcus Beasley?

Two years ago, Klinsmann made three changes between the group stage and quarterfinals. Matt Besler started all three games en route to the title, Eddie Johnson came on in the second half against El Salvador and had a huge tournament, while Gonzalez played just a few minutes in the final to help protect a 1-0 lead against Panama.

Of the three players Klinsmann has brought in for the quarterfinals -- DaMarcus Beasley, Joe Corona and Alan Gordon -- Beasley is the most intriguing addition. Beasley, who started at left back for the USA at the 2014 World Cup, had announced his international retirement at the end of last year, but he's a Klinsmann favorite and was convinced to come out of retirement. "Having DaMarcus come into the team is huge," said Klinsmann, "because of his character, his giving nature, the spirit he brings, but also the high quality he brings."

The latter point is key. Klinsmann likely didn't bring him in to be a cheerleader. He said Beasley "gives us a couple of different options on how to put pieces together." Those options might include inserting Beasley at left back and moving Johnson over to right back, where he excelled at the World Cup. Timmy Chandler's two starts at right back have been very poor.

U.S. Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa, England), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), William Yarbrough (Leon, Mexico).
DEFENDERS (7): Ventura Alvarado (Club America, Mexico), DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin, Germany), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt, Mexico), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Moenchengladbach, Germany), Tim Ream (Bolton Wanderers, England).
MIDFIELDERS (9): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes, France), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jor Corona (Veracruz, Mexico), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), DeAndre Yedlin (Tottenham, England), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy), Graham Zusi (Sporting KC).
FORWARDS (4): Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Alan Gordon (LA Galaxy), Aron Johannsson (AZ, Netherlands), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes).

Cuba Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): 1-Sandy Sanchez (Las Tunas), 21-Diosvelis Guerra (Artemisa)
DEFENDERS (9): 2-Andy Vaquero  (La Habana), 3-Yenier Marquez (Villa Clara), 4-Angel Horta (Camaguey), 5-Jorge Luis Clavelo (Villa Clara), 6 -Yaisnier Napoles (Camaguey), 13-Jorge Luis Corrales (Pinar del Rio), 15-Adrian Diz (La Habana), 16-Hanier Dranguet (Guantanamo), 19-Yasmany Lopez (Ciego de Avila)
MIDFIELDERS (6): 8-Alberto Gomez (Guantanamo), 10-Ariel Martinez (Sancti Spiritus), 17-Dairon Perez (Camaguey), 18-Daniel Luis (La Habana), 22-Alain Cervantes (Ciego de Avila), 23-Felix Guerra (Granma)
FORWARDS (2): 9-Maikel Reyes (Pinar del Rio), 20-Armando Coroneaux (Camaguey).

16 comments about "Scouting Report: USA will change things up for Cuba".
  1. # 12, July 17, 2015 at 7:26 a.m.

    Mr. Kennedy I agree painful is how I would describe watching the US play. US v Cuba must see TV viewing........not.

  2. Walt Pericciuoli, July 17, 2015 at 8:59 a.m.

    Johannsson should start up top with Zardes on the outside. Bedoya can get his min. in, then bring Yedlin in fo him off the bench.

  3. Santiago 1314, July 17, 2015 at 9:14 a.m.

    I only want to see the Game for the Defections at the Finish. ..Does anyone remember The End if the Stalone movie, "VICTORY", Where the Allied Prisoner Players escape with the French crowd..."Victoire!, Victoire!!, VICTOIRE.!!!"...Hope our Fans bring their Trench Coats, so we can Sneak some More out of that Castro Hell Hole...

  4. Santiago 1314, July 17, 2015 at 9:22 a.m.

    How are Zardes and Johansson in finishing crosses into the Box..??? Not to good I think...Not there style to "POST UP"... This is actually a game for WondoLoserski and Gordon to Bang In The Box...

  5. beautiful game, July 17, 2015 at 10:34 a.m.

    Too much yada-yada about this or that player. This team has no leader on the pitch and the team concept has never materialized...bad decisions on and off the ball are staggering. I'd rather watch TnT or Jamaica, the latter being the most improved side in the last 10-years.

  6. Santiago 1314, July 17, 2015 at 10:40 a.m.

    "The Fish Stinks from the Head First"... Flakey Team, Flakey Coach...

  7. Bret Newman, July 17, 2015 at 12:04 p.m.

    When I watched 5 minutes of the Cuba/Mexico game, I saw how bad Cuba was, and already new Mexico would blow them out. I don't know how they beat Guatamala, but the U.S. should beat them by at least 5 goals, or it's a disappointment. It's already been a disappointment, but when you look at the team JK is putting out there, there is a lot to be desired. We got Wondo, Gordon, and coming out of retirement, Beasley. Sad! Might as well call LD, but JK would rather get fired, then play Landon.

  8. Chris Sapien , July 17, 2015 at 1:15 p.m.

    Wow! You guys are brutal, but I feel your a pain. We should be banging goals in from left, right and center in this woeful tourney to date. Funny stuff Santi! I'm with Walt on his line-up, time to see if Aron is the real deal facing goal. Hey Bret, how about we bring back Ching, Hejduk and Boca while we're at it? I would be much more comfortable with their quality than what I've seen from our boys the last three games.

  9. Charles Stamos, July 17, 2015 at 2:57 p.m.

    Time to find a workable back four minus Brooks. Hopefully, Alvarado is a fast learner and avoids the mistakes he has had; Omar is a good placeholder for Brooks, Johnson has one outside spot secured, play him at left back, then you can put Evans or Garza on the right, or play Beasley on the left.
    The offense should produce no matter who plays. Get the teamwork going!

  10. Santiago 1314, July 17, 2015 at 4:12 p.m.

    Hey JK,,,”FLOW” ???... You had plenty of Preparation for WC2014, What was the excuse there, for Poor Play???… Oh yea, I remember… YOU SCREWED UP  and Left off another Hi-Forward to Replace Jozy… Guess What???... You did it again… Let’s hope you WISE UP and put Zardes up there…Otherwise we will be screwed versus Mexico…Don’t play Zardes this Game,(cuba) Cause if he picks up a Yellow v Cuba and then another one in the Semi’s, He will have to Sit the Final…Zardes is the ONLY option Available at Hi-Forward…REST HIM…

  11. Santiago 1314, July 17, 2015 at 4:22 p.m.

    We will have to try to Beat the Bus (or Boat) that they are going to Park in front of the Goal…We don’t have any 1v1 wide players to penetrate and set up the Crosses… So, Width on Overlaps will be the only way we can penetrate on the outside…Here is where we could have used Davis(Left Footed Crosser//FK Specialist) or Zelalem(1v1 wide Player)…My Line-Up…*** Guz>||||*** 4 wide Players to interchange on the Overlaps, doesn’t really matter which is the Midfielder and which is the Wing-Back… Just keep Flying(FLOWING) around them… Bradley to sit Deeper and Switch the Play, 40-50 yards, when one side gets closed down…Then after the Game, they can use the Boat to Sail off to FREEDOM in the US of A….CUBA Libre !!!

  12. Steven SIegel, July 17, 2015 at 9:21 p.m.

    Cetainly not JK's fault . We are giving away the ball with some terrible passes by previously reliable players. Beckerman started off poorly but then Diskerud made him look good, so now Beckerman is back. Bradley, Zusi, both giving away passes.

    Honduras and Haiti were excellent on the attack, Panama scored a goal then hoped it would suffice, which it did.

    I was hoping for USA vs El Salvafdor. Now this game is just a bummer.

  13. Zoe Willet, July 18, 2015 at 12:57 a.m.

    RE Jozy et al: I fail to understand why this or that player could not be fit. These are professionals, so don't they, in season at least, eat right, don't party (except Ronaldhino), and work out/train every day (well maybe they get 1 day a week off)? If they run at least 5-10 miles, stretch, do aerobics, practice dribbling and heading and other soccerly things, then how could they possibly not be "fit"?

  14. Santiago 1314, July 18, 2015 at 2:53 p.m.

    @Zoey,...They Ain't Androids.!!!...At Least Yet.!!! and Hamstrings are MAJOR Tricky...But, Jozy's Problem is Strictly Between his Ears, Maybe he could CURE it with a HAND OVER THE HEART Injection...Just Sayin'

  15. Santiago 1314, July 18, 2015 at 3:15 p.m.

    @Bret… Cuba looked so bad against Mexico, because they had 6 players and the Coach, that couldn’t get Visa into the US…Only had 15 players for that game… On Second Thought.. THEY ALL SUCK, Should have stuck to Baseball… I’m trying to do the Math…Started with 15…Lost 1 Defector in Chicago…Added 5,… Lost 1 more to Defection in Arizona… Lost 2 more in Charlotte…I come up with 16…Did they add any others..???...This HIGHER Math is Killing me.!?!?!?

  16. Santiago 1314, July 18, 2015 at 4:40 p.m.

    4-4-2... at least JK got the formation right.. but he send in players for Tiki-Taka... I predict a tough Slog... Should have used OVERWHELMING FORCE... Should have used the Powell Doctrine, Not Bush...

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