Gold Cup / USMNT

Gold Cup recap: USA 6-0 Cuba

For the first time in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, the US Men’s National Team made quick work of an opponent, lashing four first half goals past an overmatched Cuban side on their way to a 6-0 victory. Clint Dempsey continued to provide most of the fireworks for the Americans, notching the first hat trick of his international career.

With Cuba sitting extremely deep to begin the match, Tim Chandler and Fabian Johnson found freedom to roam the flanks, and each tallied an assist within the opening 15 minutes of the match. Aron Johannsson got on the board for the first time in the Gold Cup with a delicate chip after racing beyond the Cuban defense to track down a long ball from Michael Bradley. Omar Gonzalez finished the first half scoring by poking home a set piece on the stroke of halftime to send Cuba into the break with little hope of a comeback. The US sat deep in the second half but still managed to create numerous chances in the final third, with Dempsey finishing from the penalty spot and tapping home from Bradley to cap the scoring and his hat trick.

First half

Looking to break down a Cuban team determined to bunker down throughout, Jurgen Klinsmann fielded an attacking, technical lineup with Johannsson partnering Dempsey up front and Gyasi Zardes working opposite Alejandro Bedoya on the wings.

Cuba had short moments of possession as the opening minutes ticked by, but the Americans’ first attack yielded Dempsey’s fourth goal of the tournament. The buildup began on the left with Fabian Johnson doing extremely well to take down a long pass before fizzing his cross through the box. Unable to apply a finishing touch, Zardes recovered and laid off for Tim Chandler. The right back landed a perfect ball onto the head of a leaping Dempsey to open the scoring.

Bedoya, courtesy of some fancy footwork,  found plenty of space up the left flank in the 9th minute. But Johannsson was unable to get enough contact onto the winger’s cutback cross and goalkeeper Disovelis Guerra saved easily.

Johannsson turned provider minutes later, as his scoop pass nearly completed a direct 1-2 with Bradley, but the US captain could not dig the ball out of his feet to find the finish.

In the 15th minute, Zardes doubled the scoreline as the US continued to flood forward. Cuba slumped too deep in defense and Johnson had all the time he needed to send a swerving cross toward the back post. As with Dempsey’s opener, Zardes had little trouble slipping his marker to calmly sidefoot home.

Cuba was nearly carved open again less than two minutes later. After showing impressive composure to take the ball down with his head along the touchline, Zardes raced toward the box. With Johannsson driving to the near post and Dempsey sitting for the cutback, Zardes picked out the former. However, Guerra did well to smother the ball at the striker’s feet.

After a couple of close calls, Johannsson finally found his scoring touch in the 32nd minute when he ran onto a perfectly struck ball over the top from Bradley. Guerra was well off his line, and Johannsson’s soft chip was executed perfectly to give the US to a 3-0 advantage.

Cuba had their best chance of the match in the 39th minute when Maikel Reyes got to the endline. Alberto Gomez took the cutback at the wrong angle instead of allowing the ball to run on to the hard-charging Jorge Corrales and the chance went begging.

Another Bradley long ball to Zardes had the US racing forward in the 43rd minute. Although Dempsey was alone in the box, Zardes attempted to replicate Johannsson’s chip, but he succeeded only lofted the ball over the crossbar.

On the stroke of halftime, the US combined well on a set piece to grab a fourth. When Bradley hooked his corner kick beyond the far post, Johannsson got up well and nodded the ball back across the face of goal. The finish required only the simplest of touches and Omar Gonzalez slid in to provide it, tallying his first goal in a US shirt.

Second half

Cuba looked to race out of the gates in the second half, but Brad Guzan showed his mobility to sprint off his line and claim a ball in front of Reyes as the striker raced in behind the US defense in the 50th minute.

Dempsey nearly notched his second of the match off of another corner minutes later. Bradley again lofted the ball to the far post and Dempsey got up for it well. However, Guerra was well-positioned and did enough to block the chance.

Cuba looked to spring counterattacks with more intensity than during the first stanza. Strong individual efforts from Reyes and Liban Perez were unrewarded, however, as Cuba continually left their strikers at a severe numeric disadvantage going forward.

Bradley nearly added his name to the scoresheet in the 58th minute when Zardes cut back to him after wiggling free up the right flank. Using a first touch to drive into the box, Bradley was denied as Guerra stuck out a strong foot to block away his low, back post shot.

Zardes was the next to have a chance inside the Cuban box after substitute Brad Evans sent Johannsson through. The striker was unable to get a shot on target, but his searching run cut the Cuban defense open. The ball fell to Zardes but the defenders scrambled well to recover and block off his heavy blast.

In the 64th minute, Dempsey stepped to the penalty spot after Angel Horta ripped down Johannsson in the box after the US striker turned him around. With Guerra leaning to his right, Dempsey calmly slotted the ball down the center, sending the score to 5-0.

Cuba continued to try their luck in the attacking third, with Reyes showing great skill to dance past Evans and Joe Corona. Though he beat two players, there were plenty more defenders waiting to insure the lonely striker’s efforts came to nothing.

In the 78th minute, Bradley pounced on a miscued defensive header and passed up a shooting chance, electing instead to poke a pass through for Dempsey to chase his hat trick. And as he has done throughout the Gold Cup, Dempsey converted, sliding onto the finish to power the sixth American goal past Guerra.

US verdict

Johannsson and Dempsey are the best option

Obviously it is hard to take too much from a match against Cuba, but it would be hard to break up the attack partnership of Clint Dempsey and Aron Johannsson after this afternoon’s match. In Johannsson, Klinsmann has a legitimate back shoulder threat, a player who forces every defender to know where he is and adjust to his probing runs.

This is precisely what opposing defenses do not want to think about when Dempsey is also on the pitch. But, worry about him they must. Johannsoson’s high pressure, with the additional threat of Zardes bursting out of midfield, grants Dempsey the time and space he needs to play his game. Dropping into the midfield, exchanging quick passes with Michael Bradley and surging into the box are all more easily accomplished with the looming threat of Johannsson forcing a defense to think twice before stepping high to challenge the Americans’ main goal threat.

All about Dempsey

It will be interesting to see if Klinsmann makes any attacking changes at all before the semifinals, because it seems like the current US setup is ideally suited to feed Dempsey. Zardes’ pace and power are juxtaposed with Bedoya’s guile and technique, and any ball played over the top looks likely to get cut back into the area and with Bradley sitting slightly deeper to play long and dictate the game.

Dempsey can pick and choose his runs and locations like a kid in a candy shop. No doubt future opponents won’t give him quite as much space to peel off of his marker inside the box, but this was a Cuban team set up to frustrate Dempsey in the middle of the pitch and he still ripped them to pieces.

Final thoughts

With either Jamaica or Haiti on the horizon with a berth in the Gold Cup final at stake, the US will be thrilled to have dispatched with Cuba so easily. Not only were the Americans able to build chemistry without Jozy Altidore, but the confidence that comes from watching the ball ripple the back of the net is a very real thing.

At times like this, the veteran squad Klinsmann called on for this tournament must really step up and make certain that complacency or a lack of focus, unwanted by-products that can follow such drubbings, do not seep into the locker room. With their eyes firmly on Philadelphia and a chance to win an unchallenged place in the Confederations Cup, a difficult match against either Jamaica or Haiti must not be overlooked. The Haitians counterattacking game gave the US problems in their group stage meeting and Jamaica boasts an dangerous attacking core who will be eager give the Americans their best shot.

1-Brad Guzan; 21-Tim Chandler (16-Brad Evans ’46), 13-Ventura Alvarado, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 23-Fabian Johnson (2-DeAndre Yedlin ’67); 11-Alejandro Bedoya, 4-Michael Bradley(capt), 5-Kyle Beckerman (24-Joe Corona ’46), 20-Gyasi Zardes; 9-Aron Johannsson, 8-Clint Dempsey
Subs Not Used: 12-Nick Rimando, 22-William Yarbrough, 15-Tim Ream, 10-Mix Diskerud, 19-Graham Zusi, 24-DaMarcus Beasley, 18-Chris Wondolowski, 26-Alan Gordon
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

21-Disovelis Guerra, 2-Andy Vaquero Ruiz, 4-Angel Horta, 6-Yeisnier Napoles, Arturo Adrian Diz Pe; 5-Jorge Luis Clavelo (capt), 8-Alberto Gomez (23-Felix Guerra Rondon ’75), 13-Jorge Luis Corrales Cordero, 17-Liban Perez (20-Armando Coroneaux ’57), 18-Daniel Ernesto Luis Saez (19-Yasmani Lopez ’70), 9-Mikael Reyes
Subs Not Used: 1-Sandy Sanchez Mustelier, 3-Yenier Marquez, 16-Hanier Humberto Dranguet, 22-Alain Cervantes
Head Coach: Raul Gonzalez Triana

Scoring Summary
USA – Clint Dempsey (Tim Chandler) – 4th minute
USA – Gyasi Zardes (Fabian Johnson) – 15th minute
USA – Aron Johannsson (Michael Bradley) – 32nd minute
USA – Omar Gonzalez (Aron Johannsson, Michael Bradley) – 45th minute
USA – Clint Dempsey (penalty kick) – 64th minute
USA – Clint Dempsey (Michael Bradley) 78th minute

Misconduct Summary
CUB – Yaisnier Napoes (caution-foul) – 60th minute
CUB – Angel Horta (caution-foul) – 3rd minute

Stats Summary (USA /CUB)
Shots: 17 / 8
Shots on Goal: 8 / 1
Saves: 1 / 2
Corner Kicks: 7 / 1
Fouls: 12 / 9
Offside: 1 / 4

Referee: Henry Bejarano
Assistant Referee 1: Warner Castro
Assistant Referee 2:  Leonel Leal
4th Official:  Joel Aguilar

Venue: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD
Kickoff: 5:00 p.m. ET

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