Three Points: USA v Cuba

Action from the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup game between the USA and Cuba (blue jersey) on July 13, 2013, in Sandy, Utah. (Photo: Mexsport)

BALTIMORE, Maryland – In the 13th edition of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, a quarterfinal stage will be conducted for the ninth time, starting on Saturday, when as the United States takes on Cuba at M&T Bank Stadium.

Here are Three Points to consider ahead of the game:

1) A return to the final for the U.S.

For five-time champion United States, the path to the 2015 Gold Cup final is a relatively straightforward one. After taking seven points from three matches to earn the top spot in Group A, the Stars and Stripes now find themselves with a favorable draw heading in to the knockout stages. First up for the Americans is a clash with Cuba, a team against whom the U.S. has gotten the better of historically, holding an 8W-1D-1L overall record, which includes an eight-match winning streak. If the favored Americans can survive their test with Cuba, a semifinal showdown with either Jamaica or Haiti then looms. While both teams have enjoyed successful runs in this year’s competition, the U.S. would again be favored to advance. With that being said, if this year’s Gold Cup has taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected. A lesson the Americans are sure to be wary of ahead of Saturday’s quarterfinal.

2) Can Cuba re-conjure the magic?

After losing by a combined 8-0 scoreline in its opening two matches, Cuba was given little chance of advancing to the Gold Cup quarterfinals. However, with their backs against the wall, the Leones del Caribe turned in a courageous performance against Guatemala on Wednesday in their final group stage match, winning 1-0, courtesy of a diving header from midfielder Maikel Reyes. It was a goal that will live long in the memories of Cuba fans everywhere and a magnificent turnaround for the 2013 quarterfinalist. For their efforts, the Cubans now face a high-profile Saturday clash with five-time tournament champion USA, a team the Cubans have not defeated since 1947.

3) Roster updates

The big news for the United States ahead of Saturday’s quarterfinal is manager Jurgen Klinsmann’s decision to make three changes to his tournament roster. Gone from the squad is two-time World Cup veteran, Jozy Altidore, as well as Greg Garza and Alfredo Morales. Joining the team is LA Galaxy hitman Alan Gordon, as well as veteran DaMarcus Beasley and Veracruz playmaker Joe Corona.