BALTIMORE — The U.S. rode Clint Dempsey’s first international hat trick to a 6-0 victory over an overmatched Cuba team in the Gold Cup quarterfinals on Saturday, pouring on the goals almost from the opening whistle. The other U.S. goal scorers were Gyasi Zardes, Aron Jóhannsson and Omar Gonzalez.
The U.S. advanced to the semifinals on Wednesday in Atlanta, where it will meet Jamaica.
Here are my three quick thoughts on the game:
The U.S. didn’t waste any time
Two years ago, the U.S. actually went down 1-0 to Cuba in a Gold Cup group stage game and didn’t score until the 47th minute before pulling away to a 4-1 win. But this game was over early, with Dempsey scoring his fourth Gold Cup ’15 goal (tops in the tournament) just four minutes in and the U.S. adding goals in the 14th, 32nd and 44th minutes.
When it was still a game, the attacking of the U.S. fullbacks, Fabian Johnson and Timmy Chandler, was a real positive as each had an assist on fine crosses. Johnson, in particular, had been unusually quiet getting forward in this tournament, and perhaps his success on Saturday will draw him out more in the games ahead. Despite Cuba’s lack of resistance, the U.S. could have used a result like this after plodding its way through the group stage (against tougher competition).
Cuba was overmatched
You had to feel for the Cubans, who’ve lost five players to defection, including forward Ariel Martínez, who could end up making a real impact in MLS, should he land in the league. The Cuban central defense provided minimal resistance on U.S. crosses, and you got a good sense of why Cuba had been outscored 8-1 in this tournament entering this game.
A stronger team would have taken advantage of some of the U.S.’s defensive miscues, including a few more by Ventura Alvarado, but Cuba just didn’t have any punch in the heat and humidity here.
It remains to be seen if improving political relations between the U.S. and Cuba might end up causing some Cuban national team players to be able to join leagues abroad without having to defect.
If that happens, Cuba’s national team could improve quite a bit down the road.
Some other mini-thoughts
The semifinal will be tougher for the U.S., which is a good thing. Saturday’s blowout wasn’t a good look for the Gold Cup … The temporary grass field here certainly looked better than many the U.S. has played on in this and previous Gold Cups. But the dead bounces made for some frustrations for players and viewers alike … Gonzalez’s goal was his first for the national team … Dempsey now has 47 career international goals, which means he’s getting closer to Landon Donovan’s U.S. men’s record of 57 … Jóhannsson’s first-half lob was the prettiest U.S. goal of the day. You see stuff like that and know he has a promising future if he can stay healthy … Alejandro Bedoya was sharp in left midfield when the game was still undecided. His return to fitness will be significant as the games get tougher.