The United States men’s national soccer team play a historic international friendly with Cuba at the Estadio Pedro Marrero in Havana on Friday (4pm ET live on ESPN 2).
The teams last played in 2008 in a World Cup qualifier when Team USA won 1-0, but this is the first friendly between the nations for 69 years and so takes on a political as well as sporting significance.
This is the United States’ first game since their back-to-back victories over Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (6-0) and Trinidad and Tobago (4-0) in World Cup qualifying last month. Mexico and Costa Rica await in November as USMNT continue their bid to reach the competition in Russia in two years’ time.
Manager Jurgen Klinsmann is likely to value this match against Cuba, as well as his side’s meeting with New Zealand next week, as a chance to prepare for those two huge encounters. The former Germany boss has turned things around in recent months, guiding USMNT to the semi-finals of the Copa America Centenario on home soil in the summer and then collecting maximum points from those two aforementioned qualifiers. His position is probably still not secure enough to prevent the pressure from rebuilding if his charges suffer an embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Cubans.
Cuba are currently in 139th place in the FIFA World Rankings, below such giants as Burundi, Puerto Rico and Madagascar, and head into this match on a run of just two wins in their last 14 outings stretching back to March 2015.
Julio Valero’s men are no longer involved in qualification for the 2018 World Cup having been eliminated by Curacao on away goals in the second round. They were also knocked out of contention for a place at next year’s Caribbean Cup in the United States after finishing bottom of a group containing Bermuda and French Guiana back in March.
The list of other opponents they have lost to in the past couple of years or so, including the likes of Guatemala, Nicaragua and Haiti, suggests that Cuba will pose few problems for the U.S. in this historic match.
Klinsmann’s 23-man USMNT squad for the upcoming double-header features some experienced players in captain Michael Bradley (pictured), Geoff Cameron of Stoke City, Toronto striker Jozy Altidore, Borussia Monchengladbach defender Fabian Johnson and midfielder Sacha Kljestan, who plies his trade at club level with the New York Red Bulls.
There are also call-ups for Borussia Dortmund’s 18-year-old winger Christian Pulisic, Bayern Munich’s 21-year-old forward Julian Green and Sunderland’s 21-year-old midfielder Lynden Gooch. Veteran goalkeepers Brad Guzan and Tim Howard have been left out in favour of San Jose Earthquake’s David Bingham, Molde’s Ethan Horvath and William Yarbrough of Leon.
Most of Cuba’s players represent clubs in the country, but a handful – namely Cruz Azul Hidalgo’s Abel Martinez and Maikel Reyes, and Ajaccio midfielder Daniel Luis – are employed overseas. Reyes could be the man to watch, with the 23-year-old striker possessing a good scoring record in the Cuban youth ranks and having already netted twice for the senior side. The 67-cap midfielder Alain Cervantes will be an important figure in the centre of the park, not least in terms of leadership and direction. Centre-back Hanier Dranguet will probably have his hands full in trying to keep the United States’ attackers at bay, with Diosvelis Guerra set for a busy afternoon in between the sticks.
Our Preview’s Cuba v USMNT Betting Picks Predictions
It is difficult for this preview to look past a comfortable U.S. victory in this one, with Klinsmann’s charges likely to have too much attacking firepower for their opponents.
Home advantage could play a small part, though, so it might be worth backing Cuba to find the back of the net on at least one occasion.
At the time of writing this preview the top American sportsbooks had not published their betting lines on this match. However our predictions would be for a 5-1 victory for the visitors in the correct score market, with over 4.5 goals to be scored in total another wager that should prove pretty safe. In summary, these are our betting picks:
- United States to beat Cuba by the correct score of 5-1
- Bet on over 4.5 goals to be scored in the match.