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By Robert Crasner, MLSSoccer.com
ARLINGTON, Texas - Marco Urena scored a goal in each half and Costa Rica opened the Gold Cup with a 5-0 victory over Cuba on Sunday.
Urena gave the Ticos the lead in the seventh minute and then scored the first of two by Costa Rica within two minutes to start the second half. Alvaro Saborio, Heiner Mora and Joel Campbell also scored for Costa Rica, which has won all four matches against Cuba in the Gold Cup.
"We were able to beat Cuba thanks to some great collective work, but we still can't say that we're the best," Ureña said. "Now we have to face El Salvador and we have to start thinking about them now so that we can get another win and have a chance to reach the next round."
With the win, Costa Rica improved its record against Caribbean teams at the regional tournament with a 10th win in 16 matches.
"I think all teams go from small to big, little to large," Costa Rica manager Ricardo Lavolpe said. "We're starting a new tournament here and getting to know each other inside the field. The team looked well today."
Cuba remained winless against Central American teams and also extended its winless skid to nine in the Gold Cup, having lost eight of those since a 2-0 win over Canada 2-0 at the 2003 Gold Cup.
The opening game of the regional tournament began with Cuba controlling possession but Costa Rica, runners-up at the 2002 Gold Cup, struck first on the counter attack with its first opportunity on goal.
Los Ticos played a long ball played over the top of the Cuban defense to a streaking Cristian Bolaños, who settled on the left side before sending a low low cross to Ureña. The 21-year-old striker beat his defender to the ball and deflected it with his right foot, sending it past surprised Cuban goalkeeper Odelin Molina.
Cuba had an opportunity to equalize minutes later but forward Alberto Gomez, alone against Costa Rican goalkeeper Keilor Navas, lobbed his shot over the crossbar.
Afterward, Costa Rica controlled the pace and the possession, building on its lead with a goal just before halftime. Midfielder and captain Celso Borges sent a ball over the top and down that center that Saborio ran onto unopposed, and finished from inside the area past Molina for a 2-0 advantage.
"We did the right things today, but didn't put away most of our chances," Saborío said. "When you win, the mistakes are easy to hide, but we can do much more than what we showed against Cuba."
Two more breakaways inside the first two minutes of the second half put the game out of reach. Captilazing on failed offside traps by Cuba, Ureña, a Gold Cup rookie, added to his goal total in the 42 seconds after the second-half kickoff, with Mora converting a similar breakaway one minute later.
"I think Costa Rica was superior," Coba manager Raul Gonzalez said. "The first goal was due to a surprise; the second, the defensive line was open and the second half we lost concentration a bit.
"We have a national team going through a process. I believe we can show more. We do have a tough up-and-coming match against Mexico, who is considered the favorite. We have to manage the tactical and manage mistakes. Mexico is a great team and El Salvador we'll see how Cuba arrives for that one at the time."
Cuba made two substitutions to its forward line but rarely threatened Costa Rican keeper until a header by Dagoberto Quesada went wide with five minutes remaining.
Both teams play next on Thursday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. Costa Rica plays El Salvador, followed by Cuba taking on Group A favorite Mexico in the second game of the doubleheader.
"It's been a long time since I've been in school," Lavolpe said. "I spoke to the players and there are different areas to work on.
"For example the start was a bit imprecise on the passing. In the first 15 minutes there was too much velocity when instead we need more precision. I spoke to them at halftime about this and I think they came out better in the second half."