Gold Cup US vs. Cuba – July 18, 2015
By Shane Stay, author of Why American Soccer Isn’t There Yet
A strange thing happened a day before the US quarterfinal match against Cuba: Five Cuban players defected. That’s right; they disappeared from their hotel, to be seen…no more. Just like that, they were gone. On the eve of playing the US, in the US, they defected to the US. No formal announcement, no letter; just gone and out of sight, leaving their teammates with an uphill battle against the heavily favored US side.
Baltimore, Maryland was extremely hot, somewhere around ninety-five degrees. There was even a water break in the first half, a measure implemented by FIFA to ensure safety. They base the need for a water break on temperature, humidity, angle of the sun, wind speed and cloud cover. The water break tactic was utilized in Brazil last summer during some of the hotter matches around the Amazon. It only lasts a minute or so and then everything picks up again.
By the time the close of the first half came around, the US was in the lead by four goals. Even with relations improving between the US and Cuba in the past few months, the defectors threw a monkey wrench into the chemistry of their team, leaving them vulnerable to multiple attacks at goal, with few chances of their own. Although, the Cubans were crafty, showing good possession, they were heavily outmatched by the more experienced Americans. Dempsey scored a hat trick, on his quest to passing Donovan for the all-time US leader in goals. He’s looking more and more like Rudy Voller, the West German forward, a former teammate of Klinsmann. Voller was never fast, but fast enough. He wasn’t the quickest, but quick enough. He was crafty, always with an eye for goal. That’s a knack you can’t teach. Dempsey is the same in many regards. He has a knack for goal and he’s never been the fastest or the quickest, but he has enough of both. Years ago, he started out playing more in the style of Cristiano Ronaldo, on the wing, using moves, showing some flair. Nowadays he still has the flair of Ronaldo combined with the guile of Voller – that pesky sense around net that puts pressure on other teams. Cuba sat back with no answer and a befuddled goalie.
The US hopes to bring the same tempo to the semifinals this week. The result may not be 6-0 but they are looking poised to make a good showing on route to the finals.