US beat Costa Rica to secure group win

DOWN TO EIGHT::After losing their previous two games, Cuba pulled off a four-goal win to secure a quarter-final spot against Honduras, while the US will face El Salvador

AP, EAST HARTFORD, Connecticut

Thu, Jul 18, 2013 - Page 19

The US finished top of Group C in the CONCACAF Gold Cup by beating Costa Rica on Tuesday, while Cuba snuck into the quarter-finals by the slimmest of margins.

The US defeated Costa Rica 1-0, with Brek Shea scoring his first international goal in the 82nd minute.

The US will face El Salvador in the quarter-finals and Costa Rica — who were Group C runners-up — will take on Honduras.

Cuba, needing to beat Belize by a four-goal margin to move ahead of Martinique in the overall standings and claim the last quarter-final berth, completed a 4-0 win with a goal in the last seconds of stoppage time.

Ariel Martinez netted a hat-trick for Cuba, who will face Panama in the quarter-finals on Saturday. The other last-eight match pits Mexico against Trinidad and Tobago.

The US goal came seconds after their goalkeeper Sean Johnson made a brilliant save off a corner. Joe Corona cleared the ball, setting up the winning sequence.

Landon Donovan, working his way back into a starring role on the national team after a self-imposed hiatus, took the ball on the right side. He quickly spotted Shea, who had come on just five minutes earlier, streaking down the middle.

Donovan’s pass hit Shea in his stride, and the Stoke City player sent a left-footed shot off goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton for the winner, the US’ eighth straight, a team record.

“It’s good,” Shea said, downplaying his massive contribution to the game after struggling earlier in the tournament. “First US goal, only goal of the game, it wins the group. Really good.”

Cuba lost their previous two games and needed a four-goal margin against Belize to get ahead of Martinique on goal-difference.

Martinez scored the first three goals for Cuba, who finally won their first ever Gold Cup game at the 14th attempt.

“For me, it was like winning the World Cup,” Martinez said. “It is a great achievement for us and it made me very happy.”

Cuba pressed for the fourth goal that would secure a quarter-final berth, coming close several times before Jeniel Molina got on the end of a Liban Perez header in the dying seconds and poked home a close-range shot to make it 4-0, sparking wild celebrations.