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U-23 MNT

U.S. U-23 Men's National Team Starts Group A of Olympic Qualifying with Victory Against Cuba

  • Agudelo Adds First-Half Goal; Adu Powers Home Second-Half Strike from Distance
  • Bill Hamid Earns Shutout in Goal for USA
  • U.S. U-23s Will Continue Group A Play Against Canada on March 24 at LP Field at 7 p.m. ET on Universal Sports Network, mun2 and

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (March 22, 2012) – The U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team opened the 2012 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament with style and substance, getting a hat trick from Joe Corona, one goal from Juan Agudelo, one from team captain Freddy Adu and an own goal in a 6-0 victory against Cuba to open Group A play.

“We’re obviously pleased with the strong start, but we’re also not satisfied with the performance,” U.S. head coach Caleb Porter said. “Even though the result was lopsided, I still thought it could have been better. Early in the game we were a little bit shaky in the buildup. The defending could have been a little tighter. It’s a little bit to be expected in the first game of the tournament. The nice thing is they settled in. You saw in the second half it was sharper, the defending was better, and you could see what we are capable of doing when we play quickly, the spacing is good, and the ball moves. I thought we put together some very attractive sequences and it was very effective, and I think we’ll get better and better as the tournament goes on. We’ll keep grounded on this one, file it away, and get ready for Canada

The U.S. team is attempting to qualify for the 2012 Olympics and this tournament will send its top two finishers – the winners of the semifinal matches – to London. In order to make that all-important semifinal, the U.S. will need to finish among the top two in its group and went a long way toward accomplishing that goal while accruing a nice edge in goal difference with the rout of Cuba. Canada and El Salvador tied 0-0 in the first Group A match of the evening.

The U.S. and Cuba squared off in the opening match of Olympic Qualifying for the second consecutive cycle, but the U.S. put together a much more impressive result than four years ago when the two countries tied 1-1 in 2008 in Tampa, Fla., with Adu scoring the USA’s lone goal.

U.S. head coach Caleb Porter sent out a starting 11 featuring eight players from Major League Soccer in a 4-3-3 formation, with Agudelo at center forward and Adu and Brek Shea running the wings. The Americans did well to interchange positions as they attacked at pace all night against the overmatched Cubans, with Corona and Agudelo consistently getting themselves into dangerous spots during the first half.

Five players in the starting lineup have at least one cap with the full National Team – Adu, Agudelo, Mix Diskerud, goalkeeper Bill Hamid and Shea – and it showed as the U.S. team dominated the action against a Cuban team that at first tried to sit back and defend, but then found itself a man down after 20 minutes and under siege.

The U.S. scored its first goal in the 11th minute after defender Kofi Sarkodie earned a foul about 45 yards from the goal when he was undercut by a Cuban while winning a header. Adu spun the free kick into the box, which was won on the punch by goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper, who collided with Agudelo on the play. The powerful U.S. forward did just enough to cause Cooper’s punch to be short and it fell to Corona, who collected the ball on his chest and calmly struck a full-volley into the lower right corner from 10 yards out.

Cooper had the wind knocked out of him and stayed down for several minutes while receiving medical attention before Cuba kicked off.

In the 19th minute, Cuba suffered a blow to its Olympic dreams after defender Dairo Macias inflicted two blows to the face of Agudelo. As the U.S. striker turned up the right side of the field inside his own half with Macias in tow, both were chasing a ball and arm battling. Agudelo tugged Macias first, who then responded with a slap across Agudelo’s face with his left hand and then a straight elbow to Agudelo’s jaw with his right. Referee Roberto Garcia did not hesitate to pull out the red card and sent Macias to the showers, forcing Cuba to play the final 70 minutes a man down.

In the 25th minute, a wonderful build-up got Shea open in the right side of the penalty area. Agudelo was wide open inside the box, but a last-second slide from Dayron Blanco saved a goal as he managed to turn the ball just outside the left post.

In the 27th minute, Corona pushed forward again and got his head on a chipped cross from Adu from the left side, but sent the ball just outside the left post.

The USA would then put the game away with three goals in six minutes at the end of the first half.

The second U.S. goal came in the 37th minute off a quick restart that Diskerud took short to the left flank. Shea collected down the wing and quickly spun in a perfect cross to Agudelo, who beat several defenders with a hard run and pounded home a header from right on the six-yard line, sending his powerful shot into the center of the goal past the helpless Cooper.

It was Agudelo’s second goal for the U-23s in as many games, after scoring the winner in the USA’s 2-0 win against Mexico on Feb. 29.

The USA pushed its lead to 3-0 three minutes later as the team once again broke down the Cuban defense on the left flank. Shea crossed, but the ball was poorly cleared and fell to Diskerud, who collected at the top of the box to the left of the penalty arc. He won the ball in front of a sliding defender as he dribbled into the penalty area and then froze another defender with a fake before playing a square pass through the box to Corona. The U.S. midfielder hit his shot first-time from 12 yards, albeit not hard, but with the outside of his right foot and with perfect accuracy into the lower right corner of the net.

The USA made it 4-0 via an own goal in the 43rd minute as Shea raced down the left side once again as his defender slipped. He tried to squeeze a short cross to the crashing Agudelo, but Arturo Diz Pe (who came on in the 24th minute after Cuba had to adjust its personnel following the red card) stepped into the passing lane and swung wildly in an attempt to clear the ball. Unfortunately for Cuba, Diz Pe whiffed with his right foot and the ball hit his left leg and bounced into his own goal.

Teal Bunbury replaced Agudelo at halftime and almost scored just seconds later, racing onto a long ball over the top and firing low with a defender on his hip, but Cooper came out to make a fine save on the slide. Cooper was injured on the play in a collision with his own defender and once again needed medical attention before rising to finish the game. Bunbury also got in behind the defense during the 80th minute, but Cooper denied him again with a brave sliding save.

Cuba’s only chances came in the 23rd minute, when the speedy Heviel Cordoves earned a foul near the top of the U.S. penalty area as Perry Kitchen grabbed some jersey but Maikel Chang fired high, and then in the 44th minute when Hamid made his only save of the match, securely catching a shot from distance.

Adu made it 5-0 in the 62nd minute as central defender Ike Opara burst in front of a Cuban to win a ball and it rolled to Adu about 25 yards from the goal. With no wasted motion, Adu collected and turned with one touch before drilling a left-footed rocket into the right corner of the net past the diving Cooper.

After the fifth goal, any energy the Cubans had left seemed to drain away and the U.S. team salted away the remaining time with some crisp possession, some of which led to the final goal and Corona’s hat trick. Diskerud and Corona played a series of give-and-goes into the penalty box on the right side and Corona’s first-time shot from 16 yards took a deflection off the toe of a sliding Cuban defender and settled into the lower left corner.

The goals were the first for Corona at any level of the U.S. youth national teams.

Additional Match Notes:

  • In addition to sending on Bunbury at halftime, U.S. U-23 MNT head coach Caleb Porter also sent on Joe Gyau for Brek Shea in the 57th minute and Amobi Okugo for Jared Jeffery in the 64th.
  • The win was the USA’s largest margin of victory and most goals scored since a 7-1 thrashing of Panama in Olympic Qualifying on July 20, 1991.
  • Corona’s hat trick was the second in the last three U.S. National Team games in the Music City. Jozy Altidore netted all three goals in a 3-0 win against Trinidad & Tobago during a World Cup Qualifier at LP Field on April 1, 2009.

-- U.S. U-23 Men’s National Team Game Report --

Match : U-23 Men’s National Team vs. Cuba
Date: March 22, 2012
Competition: 2012 CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying
Venue: LP Field; Nashville, Tenn.
Kickoff: 8 p.m. CT
Attendance: 4,269
Weather: 65 degrees, cloudy

Scoring Summary:             1              2              F
USA                                     4              2              6
CUB                                     0              0              0

USA – Joe Corona                                                       11th minute
USA - Juan Agudelo (Brek Shea)                                  37
USA - Joe Corona (Mix Diskerud)                                    40
USA - Arturo Diz Pe (Own Goal)                                       43
USA - Freddy Adu (Ike Opara)                                          62
USA - Joe Corona (Mix Diskerud)                                    88

USA : 1-Bill Hamid; 3-Kofi Sarkodie, 2-Ike Opara, 4-Perry Kitchen, 5-Zarek Valentin; 6-Jared Jeffrey (16-Amobi Okugo, 64), 8-Mix Diskerud, 10-Joe Corona; 7-Freddy Adu (capt.), 9-Juan Agudelo (12-Teal Bunbury, 46), 11-Brek Shea (14-Joe Gyau, 57)
Subs not used: 13-Jorge Villafana, 15-Terrence Boyd, 17-Tony Taylor, 18-Sean Johnson, 19-Sheanon Williams, 20-Michael Stephens
Head Coach: Caleb Porter

CUB : 1-Odisnel Cooper, 2-Yoisel Salazar, 4-Dairo Macias, 5-Renay Malblanche, 6-Osay Martinez, 8-Jorge Farinas (15-Arturo Diz Pe, 24), 10-Maikel Chang, 13-Carlos Domingo Francisco (capt.), 14-Aricheell Hernandez (7-Ricardo Pena, 68), 16-Heviel Cordoves, 17-Dayron Blanco
Subs not used: 3-Yosmel De Armas, 9-Felix Guerra, 11-Daniel Saez, 12-Julio Pichardo, 18-Maykel Reyes
Head coach: Raul Triana Gonzalez

Stats Summary: USA / CUB                                           
Shots: 17 / 4
Shots on Goal: 7 / 1
Saves: 1 / 2
Corner Kicks: 8 /2
Fouls: 10 / 8
Offside: 1 / 2

Misconduct Summary:
CUB – Dairo Macias (ejection)                         19th minute

Referee: Roberto Garcia (MEX)
Assistant Referee 1: Juan Rangel (MEX)
Assistant Referee 2: Dion Neil (TRI)
Fourth Official: Jafeth Perea (BAR) Man of the Match: Joe Corona