After a series of slow starts, the United States came out of the gate flying in its 2015 Gold Cup quarterfinal match against Cuba. Just four minutes into the game, Timothy Chandler sent a floated cross into the box that an unmarked Clint Dempsey headed home.
In the 15th minute, the U.S. doubled its lead off a Gyasi Zardes strike. Fabian Johnson came streaking down the wing and played a perfect cross into the box that Zardes gently volleyed into the net. For the next ten minutes, after Zardes' goal, the U.S. slowed the game down and allowed Cuba a brief spell of possession.
But then in the 32nd minute, the U.S. got its third of the day. Michael Bradley played a beautiful 30-yard long ball to Aron Johannsson who timed his run perfectly.
The Cuban defenders caught up to Johannsson on the right flank, however the goalkeeper was off his line and Johannsson took advantage, placing an exquisite chip in the far left bottom corner.
In the 39th minute, Cuba had one of its few first half shots. Alberto Gomez sent a weak shot to the bottom left corner and it was easily saved by Brad Guzan.
Just after Johannsson's goal the teams were given a water break due to the heat and high humidity.
The USMNT added its fourth in the 45th minute, thanks to a sliding Omar Gonzalez strike. Michael Bradley sent a corner kick to the back post that Johannsson headed across the goal, towards a sliding Gonzalez who finished.
Cuba had a few shots in the first half, but none of them posed a real threat and Brad Guzan never was troubled.
At half-time, Jurgen Klinsmann replaced Kyle Beckerman and Timothy Chandler with Joe Corona and Brad Evans. Klinsmann mentioned that Chandler has been dealing with a knee issue, which should be of some concern.
In the 63rd minute, Johannsson was dragged down in the box by defender Angel Horta, leading to a U.S. penalty. Horta was yellow-carded and Clint Dempsey easily netted the penalty with a confident Panenka (a chip down the middle).
The USMNT added to the rout with a sixth goal, in the 78th minute. A long ball was misplayed by the Cuban center-back and fell to Michael Bradley.
Bradley charged into the box and played a ball across the face of goal. Dempsey beat his defender to the ball and put the ball in the back of the net to complete his hat-trick.
With the victory, the U.S. moves on to the semifinals Wednesday in Atlanta.
Former U.S. captain Clint Dempsey is playing at another level right now. Obviously Cuba is a weak opponent, but that shouldn't take away from Dempsey's accomplishments.
He scored his first hat-trick for the USMNT in this match and it is looking more and more likely that he will surpass Landon Donovan as the national team's all-time leading goal scorer. (He is 10 goals short of Donovan; Dempsey has scored at least five goals for USMNT in four of the last five years.)
Dempsey is leading the Gold Cup Golden Boot race and has to be a top contender for the Golden Ball (tournament MVP). Dempsey's play is a key reason the U.S. should be considered tournament favorites.
Cuba Had No Chance
Cuba conceded 15 goals and scored one in the 2015 Gold Cup: this is not a good team. The Cubans are already out of the World Cup!
Yes, Cuba has already been eliminated from qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. Putting together a competitive team is no easy task as there are many factors working against Cuba.
However with the lifting of the U.S. embargo against Cuba, Cuban players may get the chance to play in MLS and other foreign leagues (although the spate of defections from the squad during this tournament suggests the pace of economic and political change is not necessarily in keeping with the aspirations of at least a few of Cuba's best soccer players). The quality of the Cuban domestic league is quite poor and allowing players to play in other leagues will surely benefit the national program.
Slow the Hype Train
The U.S. won 6-0 and played very well. This is its largest margin of victory ever in a Gold Cup match.
The USMNT controlled the game, it had 62% possession, kept a shutout and only allowed one shot on target. While this match was a great confidence and momentum builder for the U.S., this result was expected.
Cuba is the 104th ranked team according to FIFA and also lost to Mexico 6-0. Don't read into this game too much, it wasn't nearly as impressive as some people are making it out to be.
This was and will be by far the U.S.' easiest match of the tournament. The semifinal match will be far more difficult.