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USA steamrolls Cuba 7-0 in Nations League debut

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Weston McKennie and Jordan Morris paced the USMNT in an easy win

Soccer: CONCACAF Nations League Soccer-Cuba at USA Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The United States dominated Cuba throughout their first-ever Concacaf Nations League match, winning 7-0 before an announced crowd of 13,784 at Audi Field. Weston McKennie had a hat trick in the game’s first 13 minutes, and both he and Jordan Morris (1 goal/3 assists) were involved in four goals in the rout.

If the USMNT were looking to make a good impression after losing a friendly 1-0 to Jamaica on their last appearance in the District, they certainly got the job done. Weston McKennie scored 31 seconds into the match, and then again in the 5th minute, both on Jordan Morris crosses from the right wing.

That pair swapped roles in the 9th minute, with McKennie teeing Morris up to make it 3-0, and then McKennie completed a hat trick in the 13th minute by calmly depositing a low Reggie Cannon cross that found him on the doorstep.

With Canada having already gotten out to a +7 goal difference in their two games against this Cuban side, goal difference in Group A was clearly a concern, though the U.S.’s relentless opening dropped into a more patient tempo around the 15th minute. Still, there were chances: Christian Pulisic fired over in the 28th minute, while McKennie had two shots blocked in short order in the minutes that followed.

The pressure eventually paid off with a quick pair of goals. First, a Morris shot was saved in the 37th minute, only to deflect off of goalkeeper Nelson Johnston and up into the face of Cuba center back Dario Ramos, who couldn’t avoid giving up an own goal. Three minutes later, the USMNT put together a slick passing sequence, with Morris getting yet another assist. This time, he slipped Josh Sargent in behind, and the 19-year-old Werder Bremen striker made no mistake from 14 yards out.

Gregg Berhalter made two substitutions at halftime, including a move to bring D.C. United’s Paul Arriola into the match for McKennie, drawing an appreciative roar from the home crowd. Pulisic moved in from the wing, but the game’s pattern remained the same: near-constant USMNT possession against a very low-block Cuban defense.

After a lull, the U.S. padded their lead further, with Sargent winning a penalty kick after a foul from Ramos. Pulisic made no mistake with the spot kick, making it 7-0 in the 62nd minute. Berhalter would remove the Chelsea winger five minutes later, bringing on Sebastian Lletget for his captain.

The penalty effectively signaled the end of the game as a competitive contest, as the U.S. settled into long spells of possession without much of a threat. Cuba even started to send the occasional third man forward into the attack, though in the end Brad Guzan finished the match with zero saves. Sargent probably should have had a brace, but after stripping Erick Rizo of the ball in the 90th minute and walking in alone on Johnston, he fizzed the ball over the bar.

The USMNT will face a more difficult challenge this coming Tuesday, October 15, as they travel to BMO Field to face Canada, who lead Group A with 6 points.


Box Score

Concacaf Nations League - Group A
United States 7 (McKennie 1, 5, 13; Morris 9; Ramos 37og; Sargent 40; Pulisic 62pen)
Cuba 0

Lineups:
USA (433): Brad Guzan; Reggie Cannon, Matt Miazga, Tim Ream, Daniel Lovitz; Cristian Roldan, Jackson Yueill, Weston McKennie (Paul Arriola 46); Jordan Morris (Tyler Boyd 46), Josh Sargent, Christian Pulisic (C) (Sebastian Lletget 67)

Cuba (4411): Nelson Johnston; Daniel Morejon, Dario Ramos, Erick Rizo, Manuel Cruz (Jose Armelo 46); Jean Carlos Rodriguez, Aricheell Hernandez (C), Karel Espino, Rolando Abreu (Randys Reve 59); Luis Paradela (Jose Perez 83); Maykel Reyes

Bookings:
USA - None
Cuba - Ramos 49, Rizo 78