I have a confession to make. Due to the 4pm ET game start between the United States and Cuba, I was forced to watch the first half on my phone on mute while finishing up my work day, then listened to the second half while driving home (no, I didn't watch. That's unsafe). So I didn't get the full experience of the first USMNT friendly match this week. However, Ian Darke and Taylor Twellman did a great job describing the bad field conditions, bad performance by the US, bad performance by Cuba and a pretty bad blown call by the Panamanian referee.
New York Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan fell right in line with the rest of his teammates' lackadaisical performances, putting in 69 minutes. On my drive home, I thought to myself, I haven't heard Kljestan's name called in a while. That was partly because I didn't realize he had subbed out of the game. But at the same token, it's sad because he didn't do anything to get his named called while he was in the game. He did register a shot in the first half, but that was mainly his contribution. He did have a few passes to set up runs by Julian Green, but he was largely a non-factor.
This story isn't to bash Mr. Kljestan. The rest of his team did zilch in the first half. Cuba had a couple of chances throughout the game, but since they didn't play well either, they came away empty at home. They put the pressure on the US at times, managing the hit the post twice.
Once the infamous Chris Wondolowski settled into the game after subbing at the half for Christian Pulisic, things changed. Julian Green's 62nd minute shot was parried away by Sanchez, but a heads up play was made by Wondo to put the rebound in the back of the net. Nine minutes later, Wondo found Green streaking across the goal mouth, where he was too close to miss, to give the US a 2-0 lead for good.
The US had a scary moment in the 81st minute. D.C. United defender Steve Birnbaum went for a header, but was karate kicked in the head by the flying foot of a Cuban player. And there was no call. Even ESPN2 picked up the audio of a highly animated Jurgen Klinsmann voicing his displeasure at the referee. It was so bad that Darke needed to apologize to viewers for the "industrial language" they might have heard. Birnbaum lay on the ground bloody until the ref stopped the game.
Hopefully Birnbaum heals up so he can help Sacha and the rest of the national team face New Zealand in his home stadium on Tuesday. Furthermore for RBNY fans, let's hope Sacha gets back on track in the next game so he can secure his roster spot once Mexico comes to town.