Friday, March 23, 2012

U.S. U-23s Steamroll Cuba in Opener

Joe Corona scored 3 times as the U.S cruised to a 6-0 win over Cuba in their CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying opener last night. The Tijuana striker opened the scoring a little over ten minutes into the match when Cuban keeper Odisnel Cooper punched away a Freddy Adu offering but the ball came right to Corona who took it off his chest and then coolly volleyed it into the open net. Already with a considerable talent advantage, the U.S. got even more of an edge when Cuban defender Dairo Macias elbowed Juan Agudelo in the face and was subsequently ejected forcing the Cubans to play a man down for the final 70 minutes. As you'd expect the U.S. took full advantage with Mix Diskerud, Brek Shea, Corona, Agudelo and Adu wreaking havoc in the attack all night. Diskerud finished with a pair of assists, Shea had an assist and it was his centering pass that was deflected in for the own goal, Corona obviously had the hat trick, Agudelo buried a header and his pressure in front of the net also contributed to the own goal, and Adu had a brilliant left-footed strike from distance.
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Still, there were some lapses that a better team might have made the U.S. pay for, and you could clearly hear U.S. Coach Caleb Porter screaming at his team, particular his midfielders, from the sideline about their spacing in the first half. Even after the game Porter wasn't as happy as you might expect a coach who just won a match 6-0 would be referring to his team's play in the first half as "soft" and being surprisingly critical of the overall effort. And you know what? I love it. Porter's job is to get the U.S. to the Olympics, and while he got the result everyone expected against the Cubans, his lack of complacency will pay major dividends when the team plays stiffer competition.

The U.S. is in action again tomorrow night taking on Canada. The Canadians drew with El Salvador in their opener 0-0. The top two teams in each group advance to the semifinals, with the two semifinal winners qualifying for this summer's Olympics in London.

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