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March 1, 2013
U.S. bests Cuba in U-20 semifinals

PUEBLA, Mexico -- Mario Rodiguez and Daniel Cuevas scored goals in the opening 11 minutes to lead the United States to a 2-0 win over Cuba in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship on Friday night.

All four semifinalists already had qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup, which will be held in Turkey in June.

The U.S. needed only eight minutes to get on the scoreboard. A long ball over the top from Benji Joya teed up Rodriguez one-on-one just inside the area, holding off his mark, he created a bit of space and then fired low to the far post.

Three minutes later, the U.S. doubled their lead through the handiwork of Cuevas. Picking off a pass in the center of the park, he embarked on a solo run through the middle of the Cuba defense and unloaded a shot from 24 yards out that deflected off a defender and left Cuban goalkeeper Sandy Sanchez stranded.

The two-goal deficit seemed to dampen the spirit of the Cubans and the game lost a bit of energy as the U.S. spent the remainder off the half keeping tidy possession.

The USA remained comfortably in control in the second half, balancing measured possession with timely attacks. Joya tried his luck on a free kick in the 50th minute that just bent past the wrong side of the post.

A mad scramble in front of the goal nearly resulted in a third goal with 15 minutes remaining, with several U.S. players swarming the area trying to pounce on the loose ball. A host of defenders, including Sanchez, did just enough to snuff out the danger.

Second-half substitute Brandon Allen - who replaced Rodriguez in the 73rd minute - nearly put an exclamation point on the win in the 89 th minute when he broke in on goal deep on the left side of the area, but Sanchez did well to close the space and make a point-blank save.

The U.S. entered the match with only three field players available as substitutes as several players returned to their clubs following the quarterfinal victory that secured a place in the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup. In addition to Allen, Boyd Okwuonu replaced Cuevas in the 78th minute.

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