It was a historic friendly played in CONCACAF field conditions, but the US national team overcame a slow start to defeat Cuba 2-0 on Friday at the Estadio Pedro Marrero in Havana.
The first friendly played between the countries since 1947 was marked by lethargic play at times, but Cuba gave the Americans a scare with two shots off the post before the visitors took full control of the match in the second half.
Ethan Horvath, making his first start for the US senior team, made a save on Roberney Caballero's shot in the 28th minute to keep the game scoreless. He was pressed into action again seven minutes later, but Aricheel Hernandez's redirect was smothered by the young goalkeeper.
The US nearly took the lead within the first minute of the second half, with Julian Green crossing to Jozy Altidore, whose header set up Bobby Wood's header on goal, but Cuban goalkeeper Sandy Sanchez was up to the task in stopping the shot.
Maikel Reyes had a shot bounce off the post just before the hour mark, a rather unlucky bounce for a Cuban side that was getting closer and closer to scoring.
The US finally found the breakthrough in the 62nd minute, as Julian Green made a tricky run along the left side of midfield before unleashing a hard shot that was parried aside by Sanchez, but Chris Wondolowski followed up on the rebound and buried it to give the visitors the lead.
Cuba nearly equalized three minutes later, but could not find the net despite having three chances inside the box in quick succession, including another shot off the post.
Green doubled the Americans' lead in the 71st minute, tapping in a low cross from Wondolowski as just reward for a good shift.
- 62' – USA – Chris Wondolowski
- 71' – USA – Julian Green (Chris Wondolowski, Timmy Chandler)
- Full Box Score
- WONDO, GREEN SHINE: Horvath deserves some plaudits, too, for grabbing a clean sheet in his first career start, but Green and Wondolowski led the way with a goal and assist each. It's a nice boost for the duo, with Green attempting to get back into the USMNT reckoning after some struggles on the club front since the 2014 World Cup, and Wondolowski continuing to show his ability to perform for the national team, especially against CONCACAF opposition.
- SLEEPING GIANT IN THE CARIBBEAN? It's not much of a secret that Cuba has an inconsistent track record on the international front in recent years. For all of the promise, there seems to be a step backwards at inopportune times. But Friday's friendly showed there's definitely still potential for the program. Perhaps with steps like the friendly against the US, the Cuban program will be better funded and supported in the future, and that will trickle down to more stable player development. And if they get it together, Cuba could become a true regional player indeed.
- US ESCAPE MOSTLY UNSCATHED: From initial appearances, it looks like the USMNT will escape from a very rough pitch with no direct injuries caused by the field, something that was a genuine concern. The big question on a health front is the status of Steve Birnbaum, who was kicked in the head in the final 10 minutes of the match and had a head wound as a result. Considering previous cuts to the head with D.C. United this season, it may just be the reopening of an old wound, but it is something to keep an eye on ahead of Tuesday's friendly against New Zealand at RFK Stadium.
- USA: Tuesday, October 11 vs. New Zealand (8 pm ET, ESPN, UniMás)