ARLINGTON, Texas — Costa Rica sent a clear message about their ambitions for the 2011 Gold Cup, dominating Cuba en route to a 5-0 victory in the opening match of the competition at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday night.
Costa Rica received a brace from Marco Ureña and goals from Álvaro Saborío, Heiner Mora, and Joe Campbell as they took an early commanding lead in Group A.
With the win, Costa Rica remain undefeated in four games all-time against Cuba in Gold Cup action and they built on their dominance against Caribbean teams at the regional tournament, winning 10 of 16 matches all-time.
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Cuba remain winless against Central American teams and they are still seeking their first tournament win since defeating Canada 2-0 at the 2003 Gold Cup.
The opening game of the regional tournament began with Cuba controlling possession but Costa Rica, runners-up at the 2002 Gold Cup in the United States, struck first on the counterattack in their first opportunity on goal after six minutes.
Los Ticos played a long ball played over the top of the Cuban defense to a streaking Cristian Bolaños, who gathered control on the left side before firing a low cross to Ureña near the penalty spot. The 21-year-old striker beat his defender to the ball and touched it with his right foot, sending it past a surprised Cuban goalkeeper Odelin Molina.
Cuba had an opportunity to tie the game minutes later but Alberto Gómez, alone against Costa Rican goalkeeper Keilor Navas, lobbed his shot over the crossbar.
After Gómez’s opportunity went astray, Costa Rica controlled the pace and the score line of the game, building on their lead with a goal just before halftime. Saborío, a forward for Real Salt Lake in MLS, was sprung by midfielder captain Celso Borges and ran unopposed into the Cuban penalty area before depositing past Molina for a 2-0 lead.
Two more breakaways inside the first two minutes of the second half put the game out of reach. Captialzing on failed offside traps by Cuba, Ureña, a Gold Cup rookie, added to his goal total in the 46th minute with Mora converting a similar breakaway less than one minute later to make it 4-0 Costa Rica.
The most spectacular goal of the night may have been the last one, as second-half substitute Joel Campbell unleashed a fierce volley that from a tight angle that found the top right corner of the goal in the 71st minute.
Cuba made two substitutions to their forward line but still found themselves shut out on the night although nearly getting a goal off a header five minutes before stoppage time.
Both teams return to action on Thursday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. Costa Rica play El Salvador, followed by Cuba taking on Group A favorites Mexico in the second game of the doubleheader.
CRC – Ureña 6’
CRC – Saborío 41’
CRC – Ureña 46’
CRC – Mora 47’
CRC – Campbell 71’
CRC - Ureña, caution 32’
Costa Rica (3-4-3, left to right): GK #1 Keilor Navas -- #20 Dennis Marshall, #3 Johnny Acosta, #4 José Salvatierra – #15 Junior Díaz, #14 Brian Oviedo, #5 Celso Borges (capt.), #6 Heiner Mora – #7 Cristian Bolaños (68’ #17 Josué Martinez), #9 Alvaro Saborío (69’ #21 Randall Brenes), #16 Marcos Ureña (56’ #12 Joel Campbell)
Manager: Ricardo LaVolpe
Cuba (4-4-2, left to right): GK #1 Odelín Molina -- #6 Joel Colomé, #3 Yenier Márquez, #16 Reysánder Fernandez, #14 Aliannis Urgellés -- #9 Alain Cervantes, #2 Carlos Domingo Francisco, # 8 Jaime Colomé (capt), #20 Alberto Gómez (74’ #18 Dagoberto Quesada), -- #7 Marcel Hernández (79’ #17 Yosneil Mesa), #15 Yaudel Lahera (60’ #10 Roberto Linares)
Manager: Raúl González
Referee: Roberto Moreno (PAN)
Assistant Referees: D. Moreno (PAN), Oscar Velasquez (HON)
Fourth Official: Jose Molina (HON)