Three Takeaways from USA-Cuba Olympic qualifier

Oct. 3 in Kansas City, Kansas
USA 6 Cuba 1. Goals: Carter-Vickers 16, Miazga 36, Kiesewetter 38, 49, Hyndman 69, A.Hernandez 76; Saez 90+3.
The USA clinched a berth in the all-important semifinals of the Concacaf Olympic Qualifying Championship with a 6-1 win over Cuba on Saturday at Kansas City's Sporting Park. It moves on to Commerce City, Colorado, to face Panama in the group finale on Tuesday.

Here are three takeaways from Saturday's game.

1. Setup play creates plenty of easy goals.

It's hard to put too much into the U.S. win as Cuba was depleted, having had five players defect since the team's arrival in Kansas City. But you had to like the way USA created scoring opportunities and converted them. Poor marking had something to do with the conversion rate, but the setup work was very good.

Center backs Cameron Carter-Vickers (video) and Matt Miazga (video) scored off open headers, two easy goals for Jerome Kiesewetter (video and video) on either side of the half allowed Coach Andi Herzog to empty his bench, and then goals by Emerson Hyndman (video) and sub Alonso Hernandez (video) gave the USA six goals on the day and nine in two games.

Jordan Morris, who scored twice in the 3-1 win over Canada in the opening game, did not score against Cuba but was involved in three of the four goals he was on the field for. On Kiesewetter's first goal, the Stanford junior broke in free on Cuban keeper Sandy Sanchez and could have elected to shoot but he set up Kiesewetter on a platter for an easier goal. Morris was not included in the U.S. roster for the Concacaf Cup so he will remain with the U-23s.

2. Luis Gil impresses in return to starting lineup.

The last two MLS seasons with Real Salt Lake have not been easy for Luis Gil. One of the few players from the 2013 U-20 World Cup team to have a settled club situation -- at the age of 21 he has already played 132 MLS games -- Gil lost his starting job to Luke Mulholland at RSL last season, returned to the starting lineup when Ned Grabavoy went to New York City FC in the expansion draft but now finds himself out of the lineup again as RSL goes with a 4-3-3 formation with Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales and Mulholland the preferred trio in midfield.

Gil entered the Canada game as a sub and converted a penalty kick in stoppage time, but he earned the nod over Gedion Zelalem as the attacking midfielder for the Cuba game and had a tremendous game. His free kick found Carter-Vickers for the opening game, his through ball set Morris loose on Kiesewetter's first goal, and he saved the best for last, playing a nifty back-heel to Hyndman for the fifth goal.

It would be hard to see Herzog going back with Zelalem over Gil in the next game on Tuesday.

3. Tough decisions lie ahead for Herzog.

The easy victory -- the USA was ahead 4-0 by the 49th minute -- allowed Herzog to get his two strikers, Morris and Kiesewetter, out of the game by the hour mark, and give every field player except Will Packwood playing time in the first two games. Now comes the tough part as Herzog has lots of decisions to make.

Herzog will get back goalkeeper Ethan Horvath -- named to the Europa League Team of the Week -- for Tuesday's game against Panama. The game will be a homecoming for Horvath, who grew up in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Horvath's play with Molde has been eye-opening and makes him deserving of the start for the rest of the tournament even though Zack Steffen, this summer's U-20 standout in goal, has been solid in the first two games.

Marc Pelosi started in place of his San Jose Earthquakes teammate Fatai Alashe and brought more creativity to the midfield, assisting on Kiesewetter's second goal. But in stoppage time, Pelosi was injured, taking a nasty kick to his shin -- on the same leg he broke playing at Liverpool -- and had to be stretchered off the field. (He was limping but walking under his own power afterwards.)

Herzog may choose to rest Matt Polster and captain Wil Trapp for Tuesday's Panama game. Both picked up yellow cards against Canada and risk missing the semifinals if they picked up a card against Panama. Resting Polster would allow Herzog to go with Boyd Okwuonu and Dillon Serna and give them each one more game before he has to decide who to start at outside back in the semifinals with a berth in the 2016 Olympics on the line.

TRIVIA. The six goals matched the USA's total in a 6-0 win over Cuba in qualifying for the 2012 Olympics. The U.S. record for goals in an Olympic qualifier is eight set in an 8-0 win over Haiti in 1991.

Oct. 3 in Kansas City, Kansas
USA 6 Cuba 1. Goals: Carter-Vickers 16, Miazga 36, Kiesewetter 38, 49, Hyndman 69, A.Hernandez 76; Saez 90+3.
USA -- Steffen; Okwuonu, Miazga, Carter-Vickers, Polster (Ariyibi 60), Trapp, Hyndman, Gil, Pelosi, Morris (A.Hernandez 60), Kiesewetter (Tall 54).
Cuba -- Sanchez; Baquero, Piedra, Diz Pe, Martinez, Collado, M.Hernandez, Saez, Urgelles, Reyes, Morales (Capote 71).
Att.: 3,755.

7 comments about "Three Takeaways from USA-Cuba Olympic qualifier ".
  1. Santiago 1314, October 4, 2015 at 12:18 a.m.

    Credit to Herzog for seeing the Weakness at Outside Defenders..Not sure the Changes are the Solution, but they are Better...Rt Def-Okwuonu(4)… Better than Polster, Very Quick, But surprisingly Slow and Beatable…Still NOT the answer at Rt Back…TRY Alashe…//RtCtDef—Miazga(6)…Good Banger on Defense…Too many Unforced Errors on Passing...//LtCtDef—C-V…STUD(8)If we have another Banger on Bench, Move him to Rt.Def...//LtDef—Pelosi(6)Steady, Better than Serna...Not Long Term Solution, but should be good enough to Qualify…Hope he didn’t Break his Leg on that last Tackle…OUCH
    GK-Steffan (Z)Zzzzz… Snoozer,Except for Deflected Shot that went in off Trapp…

  2. Santiago 1314, October 4, 2015 at 12:29 a.m.

    Mid-Field...No Credit to Herzog here...Diamond is still Too Narrow...Attacking Mid is NOT Solved by Gil...DefMid—Trapp(7)…Good Field General…Holds Shape Well...//RtMid--Polster(4)…Non-Factor…Doesn’t Hurt you, Doesn’t Help You…think Bedoya...//LtMid—Hyndman(8)…Wasted out there…Did much Better when he was Moved to Right and allowed to play Higher…Should be Playing where Gil is…//AttMid—Gil(3)Useless…So many Poor Tactical Decisions and Indecisive(Paul,go back and watch his play again)A couple Good Plays versus Cuba(-5 Defectors) does not Mean Much, but Poor Play against them DOES...

  3. Santiago 1314, October 4, 2015 at 12:37 a.m.

    Forwards...Why are we playing with 2 forwards????...Full National team Doesn't...I thought the idea with Herzog, was that the Junior teams would play the same Formation...4-1-3-1-1...RtForw—“Bed”Wetter(5)…Why that???...Because he has missed about 4 Clear Chances to Score…Gets too Excited in front of Goal…Keeps getting in Morris Way…forcing Morris to Go out Too Wide to see the ball…Good Out Wide and Crosser…Move him to Rt. Mid…//Ltforw—Morris(7)…Super Star…Would be nice if he could use his Left Foot, for more than Standing On…Unless he becomes as good as Rumminegge… (and he ain’t Far Off)

  4. beautiful game, October 4, 2015 at 12:35 p.m.

    One takeaway is that Cuba has a mediocre squad, and any other result by the US squad would have been a catastrophe.

  5. Santiago 1314, October 5, 2015 at 3:01 p.m.

    Oh, I forgot to Rate the Subs...ARIYIBI (8/3)....Looked like Ronaldo when he stayed out on Left Mid/wing...Didn't hold position well..Ended up all over the Field...That's why the Double score...Definitely should Start at LeftMid in next game...We got NO Player like him, in Our National Program...///...HERNANDEZ(5)...Did fine...Would like to see more of him...But we're Loaded up front...///...TALL (6)...Short but FAST.!!!...Better than Morris???.NOPE...So sorry,... Good alternative to BedWetter...

  6. Santiago 1314, October 6, 2015 at 11:53 a.m.

    I couldn't find anything on the Tie-Breakers for Group Play...If it's Head-to-Head; Line Up should be...Gk-4-1-3-1-1...Horvath /// Pelosi-CV-Miazga-Alashe /// Hyndman /// Ariyibi-Gil-Keisewetter /// Zelalem /// Morris (Trapp has to sit because of Yellow)

  7. Santiago 1314, October 6, 2015 at 5:46 p.m.

    This is the most "Upside" Group of players.... Not sure about some of them, but it's a "Throw-Away" game...Good time to experiment. .

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