USA beat Cuba in his­toric friendly

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

HA­VANA:

The United States warmed up for their loom­ing World Cup qual­i­fy­ing clash with Mex­ico with a 2-0 friendly vic­tory over Cuba on Fri­day, only the third time in history the two na­tions have met on Cuban soil.

Chris Won­dolowski in the 62nd minute and Ju­lian Green in the 71st scored for the United States. The match at the Es­ta­dio Pe­dro Marrero was the lat­est byprod­uct of the thaw in re­la­tions be­tween the United States and Cuba, after more than half a cen­tury of bit­ter Cold War en­mity.

It is the first time the United States have played in Cuba since their World Cup qual­i­fy­ing clash in Ha­vana in 2008, when the Amer­i­cans won 1-0 courtesy of a Clint Dempsey goal.

Aside from that, the only other meet­ing be­tween the teams in Cuba came in 1947, when the hosts won 5-2. “Today we made history,” said for­ward Jozy Alti­dore. “Thanks to Cuba for the hos­pi­tal­ity and here’s to con­tin­u­ing to im­prove our re­la­tions in the fu­ture.”

Yet while Fri­day’s game came loaded with po­lit­i­cal sym­bol­ism, for USA coach Jur­gen Klins­mann the match was key prepa­ra­tion for World Cup qual­i­fiers. After an hour of frus­tra­tion, San Jose Earth­quakes striker Won­dolowski, a half­time sub­sti­tute, broke the score­less dead­lock, slam­ming in a re­bound from a Green at­tempt saved by Cuban goal­keeper Sandy Sanchez. Less than 10 min­utes later, it was Won­dolowski’s low cross across the Cuban goal mouth that Bay­ern Mu­nich winger Green-re­called for the first time since May-seized to slot home.

The spir­ited Cubans had given the vis­i­tors a scare with two shots off the post be­fore the United States took con­trol in the sec­ond half. Goal­keeper Ethan Hor­vath, mak­ing his US de­but, made a save on Rober­ney Ca­ballero’s shot in the 28th minute to keep the game score­less, and min­utes later thwarted an at­tempt by Aricheel Her­nan­dez. The US got a fright of an­other kind in the 80th minute, when Steve Birn­baum was kicked in the head by a leap­ing Cuban player. He was treated on the field and was able to walk off un­der his own steam.

Klins­mann’s men open their CONCACAF “Hexag­o­nal” World Cup qual­i­fy­ing com­pe­ti­tion with a home match against Mex­ico in Colum­bus, Ohio, on Novem­ber 11 be­fore fac­ing 2014 World Cup quar­ter-fi­nal­ists Costa Rica in San Jose four days later. They’ll play an­other tuneup friendly on Tues­day against New Zealand in Wash­ing­ton. —AFP

HA­VANA: Danny Wil­liams, of the US, left, and Cuba’s Duxney Al­berto Espinosa, fight for con­trol of the ball, dur­ing a friendly soccer match in the Pe­dro Marrero Sta­dium in Ha­vana, Cuba, Fri­day. The US won the match 2-0. — AP

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