Photo by Jane Gershovich/Soccer By Ives
BY MIKE DONOVAN
PORTLAND, Ore.- Costa Rica came into their Gold Cup matchup against Cuba being pegged as a team that might challenge the traditional top dogs at the 2013 Gold Cup. After 45 minutes of play, Los Ticos didn’t look the part.
Luckily for Costa Rica, they found their form after the second half whistle and ran past Cuba, 3-0 Tuesday at Jeld-Wen Field. Two goals by Michael Barrantes sandwiched a Jairo Arrieta finish to give the Ticos the victory.
Barrantes, who plays his club football for Norway’s Aalesunds FK, delivered two long left-footed goals and was a constant nuisance for the Cuban backline. His first goal came by a volley that left Cuban goalkeeper Odelin Molina helpless, while Molina should have done better on a lightly-hit curled shot that provided Costa Rica with their final goal.
After shaking off the first half rust, the Costa Ricans proved why they are the team that is most likely to challenge the U.S. for top spot in the Gold Cup’s Group C. While Cuba seemed to be a capable opponent in the early going, they were helpless to prevent continuous attacks from Barrantes, Arrieta, and second half sub Kenny Cunningham.
Arrieta, who was one of four MLS players in Costa Rica’s starting lineup, found the back of the net after he put a rebound home after his initial swatted aside by Molina. Arrieta joined the Timbers Rodney Wallace, RBNY’s Roy Miller and RSL’s Alvaro Saborio as Costa Rica starters from MLS.
While Cuba finished the match with more shots (14-13), they rarely challenged Costa Rica’s Patrick Pemberton. Pemberton’s biggest stop came after the match had been decided, when he denied a Jose Ciprian breakaway. When Cuba had chances they were usually after Ariel Martinez broke through from his right wing position. The 2012 Caribbean Cup champs were unable to break their recent Gold Cup woes, running their winless streak at the competition to 12 straight games.
The teams will travel to Sandy, Utah for games on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium. Cuba will take on the U.S. while Costa Rica matches up with Belize.