Canada 2:0 Cuba
By Kara McDermott
Canada gained their second victory of the tournament with an almost entirely new squad than their first game against Haiti in group play. Only captain Christine Sinclair and defender Shannon Woeller returned to start against Cuba.
The new squad was looking to the goal early. In the 5th minute, Kaylyn Kyle headed down a cross by Carmelina Moscato, but the attempt went just wide of the post.
Canada moved the ball around seemingly at will; content with their control the Reds were calm and unhurried. Their first goal of the match actually came from a penalty kick in the 17th minute. Cuba’s Sucel Maceo Leon tackled Kyle in the box from behind, bringing her down and the ref over for an immediate penalty call.
Sinclair, sitting on four goals including one on a penalty against their first opponent Haiti, tallied her fifth for the tournament. She set the ball, employed some cheeky gamesmanship by looking to the ref to draw away the eyes of keeper Lucylena Martinez, ignored the deafening roar of the hometown crowd, and calmly sunk the shot right footed to the left corner.
After the first goal, Cuba settled like sand in a bucket of water; all but one player pulled back behind the ball leaving two thirds of the field open for Canada’s unfettered use. Though this severely limited Cuba’s ability to launch a counterstrike, the tactic worked to some degree in gumming up Canada’s movement in the box, but they couldn’t hold them indefinitely.
In the 24th minute, Sinclair served a cross to Melissa Tancredi who headed the uncontested ball into the goal. Martinez attempted a foot on the ball, but the late contact she got on it only served to pop the ball into the ceiling of the net.
Martinez, who needed to be attended to in the latter part of the first half for what appeared to be an injury flair-up or cramp, remained strong in the game. In the 51st minute she came up strong against a point-blank redirect by Sophie Schmidt to prevent what the crowd thought was a sure goal.
Canada continued to hold the run of play, but did not have the easy, natural chemistry of their first game with the new lineup. Cuba dug in and held their ground. As the final whistle blew, several players hugged and pumped their fists, rightfully celebrating holding the vocally supported Canada team scoreless for 66 minutes.
Cuba will play a consolation match against Haiti on Monday as Canada and Costa Rica, who are now both guaranteed advancement, will play for top honors in their group.
CANADA: Shannon Woeller, Melanie Booth, Carmelina Mascato, Robyn Gayle, Kaylyn Kyle, Alyscha Mottershead, Christine Sinclair (Sophie Schmidt 46), Melissa Tancredi, Brittany Timko, Erin Katrina McLeod, Chelsea Buckland
Subs not used: Karina LeBlanc, Rhian Wilkinson, Candace Chapman, Christina Julien, Desiree Scott, Sophie Schmidt, Kelly Parker, Chelsea Stewart
Head coach: John Herdman
CUBA: Yutmila Galindo Rodriguez, Sucel Maceo Leon, Jessica Pupo Alvarez, Marianela Morales Chacon, Yezenia Gallardo Martinez, Dayanay Baro Mesa, Rachel Pelaez Ellis, Lucylena Martinez Rodriguez, Maria Isabel Perez Torres, Anay Bombu Lescaille, Yisel Rodriguez Llanes
Subs not used: Katherine Montesino Hidalgo, Sandra Enamorado Perez, Yoanis Linares Reyes, Yaremis Karelia Fuentes Ramirez, Yarisleidy Mena Noro, Yunelsis Rodriguez Baez, Indira Manzano Medina
Head coach: Luis Elejalde