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Jul 13, 2013

U.S. comes from behind to beat Cuba

SANDY, Utah -- Chris Wondolowski is making a case that he should be included in the United States roster when World Cup qualifying resumes in September.

Wondolowski -- with his jersey name spelled correctly this time -- scored two more goals to raise his total to five in two matches, and the Americans overcame a slow start to beat Cuba 4-1 Saturday and advance to the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals. He became the first American with five goals in one Gold Cup tournament.

Landon Donovan tied the score late in the first half when he converted his second penalty kick of the tournament for his 53rd international goal. Joe Corona got his first international goal early in the second, and Stuart Holden made his first start in nearly three years for the U.S. (2-0), which has reached the quarterfinals of all 12 Gold Cups.

The U.S. won its seventh straight game, tying a team record set in June 2007.

While Wondolowski has led or tied Major League Soccer in goals for three straight seasons, he hadn't scored for the national team in 11 appearances before getting his first in an exhibition win over Guatemala on July 5.

"I'm very confident in my play," Wondolowski said. "Just even getting the goals is so huge. I'm feeling more confident in my passing and in my touch and things like that where it's helping me raise my level."

Wondolowski scored a first-half hat trick in Tuesday's 6-1 win over Belize, when his jersey was misspelled "Wondowlowski." He started this match on the bench, then replaced Herculez Gomez in the 58th and scored the final two goals in the 66th and 85th minutes. Superstitious, the 30-year-old San Jose forward had an extra "W" stitched on the inside of his jersey.

"Wondo is doing wonderful," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "It's just a joy to see him every day, in training and now getting his goals that he was waiting for such a long time for -- and now they're coming. He was a bit disappointed when I told him that he's not coming off the start right away, but I told him 'We got to keep your goals for the second half,' -- which he did."

Wondolowski, Donovan and Holden all are making a case to be included in the player pool for World Cup qualifiers at Costa Rica on Sept. 6 and at home against Mexico four days later.

"The benchmark for us now starts with Costa Rica," Klinsmann said. "We're looking forward to that match. We need now games where we're eye-to-eye with the opponent."

Donovan, a veteran of three World Cups hasn't played for the national team in 11 months before the Guatemala match because of injuries and a four-month sabbatical from soccer that ended in late March.

Holden made his first start for the U.S. since an exhibition against Colombia on Oct. 12, 2010. A knee injury the following March sustained from a tackle by Manchester United's Jonny Evans limited the Bolton midfielder to one club match in the next 22 months.

The Americans, who have not won the North and Central American and Caribbean championship since 2007, complete the first round Tuesday against Costa Rica in East Hartford, Conn., then play their quarterfinal at Baltimore on July 21.

Cuba, ranked 82nd by FIFA -- a full 60 spots behind the U.S. -- gave the Americans an unexpected test.

Before a crowd of 17,597 at Rio Tinto Stadium, Jose Ciprian Alfonso put Cuba (0-2) ahead in the 36th minute. He beat defender Oguchi Onyewu to a cutback pass from Ariel Martinez, who has rounded left back Edgar Castillo near the end line. Ciprian Alfonso then sent a right-footed shot past goalkeeper Nick Rimando.

Donovan tied the score in the second minute of stoppage time with a penalty kick, extending his U.S. scoring record.

Corona finally gave the Americans lead in the 57th when he latched onto a loose ball and let loose a curling a shot from the edge of the penalty area.

"We were trying to get a quick goal in the second half, so we could get that confidence back and try to play our game and try to get more goals," Corona said.

Wondolowski made it 3-1 with his a close-range flick off a cross from Kyle Beckerman. He finished off the scoring from the center of the penalty area.

"It's such a huge honor, any time you put on that jersey, any time I see that jersey, it just gives me chills and I love being a part of it," Wondolowski said.

U.S. Notes: The Americans are 27-1-2 in the group phase of the Gold Cup, the only loss 2-1 to Panama two years ago. ... The U.S. improved to 8-1-1 against Cuba. .. Donovan has a Gold Cup-record 15 goals. ... Cuba is winless in 12 straight Gold Cup matches. ... Holden, Gomez, Castillo and Onyewu were among six changes. Tony Beltran took over at right back and Brek Shea started in midfield. Going to the bench along with Wondolowski were right back Michael Parkhurst, central defender Clarence Goodson, left back DaMarcus Beasley and midfielders Jose Torres and Mix Diskerud. Torres replaced Shea at the start of the second half and Diskerud took over for Holden in the 58th. ... A former youth player for Norway, Diskerud became tied to the U.S. team when he started against Belize. ... Onyewu was captain for the second time and first since the Colombia match three years ago.

Costa Rica 1, Belize 0

Costa Rica also advanced to the Gold Cup quarterfinals on Saturday by beating Belize on an own goal by Dalton Eiley in the 49th minute.

Costa Rica extended its shutout streak to 704 minutes with the win, which assured the Ticos of playing their quarterfinal in Baltimore on July 21.

Costa Rica (2-0) plays the United States (2-0) on Tuesday at East Hartford, Conn., in a match that will determine the Group C winner. The Ticos have one loss in their last 17 matches, a 1-0 defeat to the U.S. in a World Cup qualifier played during a Colorado snowstorm in March.

Belize (0-2) lost its opener 6-1 to the U.S. on Tuesday, and its players reported to soccer officials that they had been approached by a match-fixer before that game.

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