Last night I was writing a preview of the Gold Cup quarterfinal between the US and Cuba. For Cuba, it was mainly focused on Ariel Martinez, their forward with a solid left foot who was causing a lot of problems for Guatemala from set pieces and whose pass set up Cuba’s only goal of the tournament so far. It sounds like he defected today, so that preview isn’t really worth a whole lot any more.
Cuba is even more of an unknown now, a team who got through with a -7 goal differential and who shouldn’t pose a real challenge for the US. Their goalkeeper did look good against Guatemala, and it’s pretty clear that Cuba will likely park the bus and try and strike on the counter, as most smaller teams in CONCACAF do. Considering how bad the US has been with possession, with keeping the ball when pressured, and really with short passes in general, this might not be as easy for the US as one imagines. Check out Cuba’s last game to get an idea of what they look like.
Not exactly overwhelming with talent or organization. Thing is when a team gets a win in a game like that it builds a shit-ton of confidence real quick. So you need to go in and take the game to them early. The upside is this lineup is built to go after Cuba. I love Jozy. Man is a beast. Problem is, he is hurt, and you could tell on the field that he was not at full strength. This means it is finally time (JK willing) for Aron Jóhannsson to get his shot up top for a prolonged (hopefully three games) period of time. Jóhannsson is perfect for this type of game because he is quick, he moves well, he passes well, and he creates for himself. He and Dempsey are going to cause problems for defenses going forward because they both are unpredictable. It is time to shine ArJo, it is time.
The biggest question for me is does Kyle Beckerman start? This likely isn’t a game that the US needs Beckerman. They do however need a consistent lineup, since at times they look 11 guys who just met who all happened to be wearing the same outfit and cleats. They are 11 very well dressed strangers for the situation, but still 11 strangers. Beckerman will likely be valuable later on in the tournament, so having him start makes sense to build some rhythm and familiarity in the midfield for the semis and final . Which means he probably won’t start.
Beasley starts at left back, Johnson at right back, which allows Ale Bedoya to pinch inside a bit and allow Fab to overlap. Beas goes back to the outside back who stays back more, leaving Zardes with less defensive responsibility. This is if Bedoya is good to go, which JK hinted that he was today. We shall see. The US needs him, it’s very clear. It is possible that Yedlin will play on the right wide and shift Bedoya to the left and no Zardes, but Fab + DeAndre attempting to overlap each other doesn’t seem like such a good idea. Yedlin seems like a great idea off the bench against a weakened tired team, which Cuba will likely be. Let Fab make the dangerous runs on the wing while Bedoya, Bradley, Dempsey, and Jóhannsson thread the needle in the middle.
The final component is Ventura Alvarado, who has not had a great Gold Cup. I think he continues to start, because he and Brooks are the best pairing against forwards who can dribble (ie Mexico) and possession-wise he is better than Omar Gonzalez . Gonzalez struggles against quick guys, and considering Cuba is likely to be countering all day, probably not a lot for him to win in the air. Large bald white man in net. He’s looked great so far, and Timmy Howard might have some work to do to reclaim his job.
US needs to be patient with the ball, move it quickly, and get after Cuba early. Get a goal or two, make them attack a little and then bury them. This should be a comfortable win for the US.