Two games into the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the United States Men’s Soccer Team is where everyone expected them to be in the standings, but their performance during their win Saturday over Cuba was not what it should have been. On the heels of easy victories over Guatemala in a friendly and Belize in the Gold Cup opener, the Americans were sluggish and unimpressive against Cuba, despite winning comfortably in the end.
The Americans showed no energy and no sense of urgency to start the game as they appeared to be sleep walking throughout much of the first half. If not for a penalty kick late in the half, the U.S. could have easily gone into the locker room at halftime trailing, after failing to generate many serious scoring opportunities during the first 40 minutes of the game.
Break Shea and Stuart Holden, two players that should have been catalysts for an easy victory, had disappointing performances. Holden made no impact on the game and appeared to be missing from the pitch for large stretches of time. Meanwhile, Shea had the ball at his feet frequently, but failed to do anything positive with it. With those two players looking sluggish, the U.S. failed to move the ball quickly and break down the Cuban defense.
The U.S. didn’t appear threatening on the offensive end until Chris Wondolowski entered the game as a sub. At that point, the Americans finally had a target player up top to play off of, which allowed them to build up possession and create scoring opportunities. The result was two second-half goals by Wondolowski, giving him five for the tournament, which exaggerated the final score and hid the fact that the Americans performed poorly for large stretches of the game, especially in the first half.
The win assures the Americans a spot in the Gold Cup quarterfinals, but the performance gives them a lot to work on going forward. Against a team like Cuba, the U.S. can get away playing like this, but that may not be the case during the late stages of the tournament, so the U.S. better be quick to make improvements.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him to your network on Google+.