Costa Rica downs Cuba 3-0 in Gold Cup play
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Michael Barrantes scored a pair of second-half goals and Costa Rica defeated Cuba 3-0 Tuesday night in the opening round of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Barrantes broke open a scoreless match with a left-footed goal from the top of the box that got past diving Cuban goalkeeper Odelin Molina in the 51st minute.
He added another goal in the 77th minute after Jairo Arrieta’s scored in the 71st, extending Cuba’s winless streak to 12 straight Gold Cup matches.
“The way we managed the ball, we were able to create some opportunities and we were able to score,” Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto said.
The 12-team tournament, which includes national teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean, is played every two years. Costa Rica and Cuba are in Group C with the U.S. men’s national team and Belize, who play in the late game Tuesday at Jeld-Wen Field.
Costa Rica is making its 10th Gold Cup appearance. The team reached the final in 2002, losing to the United States.
Pinto’s Gold Cup roster was close to the squad he selected for World Cup qualifying. Costa Rica was coming off a 2-0 victory over Panama in its most recent World Cup qualifying match last month.
Costa Rica’s captain is Alvaro Saborio, who plays for Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake. The roster also included Rodney Wallace of the Portland Timbers.
“The team’s definitely happy with the three points,” Wallace said. “We definitely have improvements on things, but overall, the most important thing is we got the result, we got the three points, and it gives us confidence for the next round, the next game.”
Cuba has appeared in six Gold Cup tournaments, but hasn’t won since a 2-0 victory over Canada in 2003.
“We got a little bit disorganized in the second half, which cost us the result,” Cuba coach Walter Benitez said.
Costa Rica had its first real chance in the 21st minute when Roy Miller found himself alone out in front of the net for a shot, but it sailed up and into the seats.
Overall, the Costa Ricans had greater control in the first half, but struggled with accuracy.
Barrantes had what appeared to be another goal in the 66th minute, but Saborio was offside. A short time later, Arrieta capitalized when Molina fell in front of the goal.
Barrantes’ second goal also came from atop the box, prompting Molina to shout angrily at his teammates.
The four Group C teams will next play Saturday in Salt Lake City, with the U.S. facing Cuba followed by Belize against Costa Rica at Rio Tinto Stadium. The winners and runners-up from each group, and the two top third-place finishers, advance to the knockout round. The tournament concludes July 28th at Soldier Field in Chicago.