EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Brek Shea scored his first international goal off a feed from Landon Donovan in the 82nd minute Tuesday night, giving the United States a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica and the top spot in its Gold Cup group.
Seconds after Sean Johnson made a brilliant save off a corner kick, Joe Corona cleared the ball, setting up the winning sequence. The veteran Donovan, trying to work 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 came on just five minutes earlier, streaking down the middle.
Donovan's pass hit Shea in stride, and the Stoke City player sent a left-footed shot from 15 yards off goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton to help secure the victory, the Americans' eighth in a row, a team record.
"It's good," Shea said, downplaying his massive contribution after struggling earlier in the tournament. "First U.S. goal, only goal of the game, it wins the group. Really good."
The Americans will play El Salvador in the quarterfinals Sunday in Baltimore; Costa Rica will meet Honduras in the knockout round.
Also Tuesday at East Hartford, Ariel Martinez ended Cuba's long Gold Cup drought with three goals and Jeniel Molina added a last-second score as the Cubans advanced into the quarterfinals with a 4-0 victory over Belize.
It was Cuba's first victory in 14 Gold Cup games, including 12 losses. The Cubans finished the opening round 1-2 after losses to the U.S. and Costa Rica, but the four-goal victory allowed them to advance over Martinique as one of the top third-place teams. Belize (0-3), which finished with 10 men, was eliminated.
With his goal for the U.S., Shea broke Costa Rica's 785-minute string without being scored upon.
With both teams already having clinched moving on in the CONCACAF championship, not much happened offensively until late in the game in front of 25,432.