Dempsey records three goals, U.S. breezes past Cuba and into Gold Cup semifinals.
By Robert Wagman
BALTIMORE (Saturday, July 18, 2015) -- The United States men scored early and often, using three goals from striker Clint Dempsey to dominate shorthanded Cuba 6-0 in a CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal before 37,994 at M&T Bank Stadium last night.
The U.S. was propelled into a Wednesday semifinal against Jamaica in Atlanta. Jamaica defeated Haiti 1-0 in last night’s second quarterfinal.
The romp over Cuba served as little more than a scrimmage for the U.S. There was no doubt about the eventual outcome; the only thing really in question was the winning margin.
“We wanted them to take it really seriously,” U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann said. “We didn’t want to waste anything. We didn’t want to fool around or show off. I made it very, very clear: If someone on the field takes it lightly, I am going to take them off after 10 minutes.”
The popular belief is the U.S. will advance to the final to meet Mexico, which also blanked Cuba 6-0 in the group phase.
Cuba actually controlled the ball for the first three minutes tonight, but then the Americans made their first foray into the Cuban end. The result was a 1-0 lead. Midfielder Gyasi Zardes fed to the right side to defender Timmy Chandler. Chandler found Dempsey eight yards from the center of the net for a header past Cuba goalkeeper Disvelis Guerra.
In the 15th minute, U.S. defender Fabian Johnson looped a ball into the penalty area for Zardes, who ran past several defenders onto the ball and guided it home for a 2-0 advantage.
Seventeen minutes later, U.S. striker Aron Jóhannsson picked up a ball about 25 yards from goal, looked up and saw Guerra near the top of his box and he simply chipped the ball over Guerra’s head.
Defender Omar Gonzales’ sliding goal just before the Number four came in the 45th minute with Dempsey, taking a corner from the left side. Jóhannsson headed the ball back into the center of the penalty area where defender Omar Gonzalez got to it and slid it into the goal.
Dempsey converted a penalty kick in the 64th minute and a pass from midfielder Michael Bradley 13 minutes later to complete the rout. Bradley had two assists, while the Americans won by their largest margin ever in the 13 Gold Cups, and scored six goals for the second time in the event.
Cuba coach Raul Valentin had less than his full squad available. Five players on his 23-man roster, four of them starters, “disappeared” during Cuba’s three group games. Starting forward Keiler Garcia defected in Chicago ahead of Cuba’s opener against Mexico, then backup keeper Arael Arguellez disappeared before the team traveled to Arizona for its second match. Starting midfielders Dario Suarez and Aricheel Hernandez were absent from Cuba’s third group match and attacker Ariel Martinez was not present today.
Meanwhile, Klinsmann stuck with his normal starters with the exception of defender John Brooks who was suspended for acculating two yellow cards. He was replaced by Gonzales, while injured forward Jozy Altidore was replaced by Jóhannsson. Klinsmann had made it clear to his players that he wanted them to take Cuba seriously.
Pretty much everyone played well for the U.S. Its defense, somewhat questionable during the group phase, was solid, if only lightly pressured. American control was such that both the outside defenders could push well up into the attack, not worrying about a Cuba counter.
The U.S. attacked well, combining for multiple passes many times, including before most of the goals. .
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan - 7: He did not have much to do, needing to make only a single save, but he was sharp and handled Cuban crosses well. He also distributed the ball well.
Defender Timmy Chandler - 6.5:. He was solid on defense, but managed to get forward often. He had a well-taken assist on one goal and was involved in others. He came out as a precaution at intermission with soreness in one knee.
Defender Omar Gonzalez - 7: He broke up what few plays reached the center of the U.S. back-line.. He also scored his first international goal on a short tap-in off a corner kick in a strong overall performance.
Defender Fabian Johnson - 6.5: With little to do defensively, his contributions came offensively, including a beautiful pass to set up the second goal.
Defender Ventura Alvarado - 5.5: After some questionable performances in group play, Alvarado needed this match. He made one error early, then settled in and was steady for the rest of the match.
Midfielder Michael Bradley - 8: As usual, he was the heart of the U.S. team. He was able to move all over midfield, continually setting up teammates.
Midfielder Gyasi Zardes - 7: Moving down the right side early he was a constant threat. He moved over to the right flank late and he was just as effective. He also made a considerable defensive effort, quickly tracking back to break up Cuba thrusts.
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman - 6: With Dempsey moving from side to side and well up into the offense, he was the defensive anchor in midfield. He broke up many Cuban attempts to counter in one of his better halves.
Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya - 6: An interesting afternoon. Was solid in the midfield and then ended the match with 20 plus minutes at left back.
Forward Aron Jóhannsson - 7: Constantly on the move he was difficult for the Cuban defense to contain. A goal and an assist marked a productive afternoon..
Forward Clint Dempsey - 8: Today he really settled into his role as a forward playing high with Johannsson. He was almost impossible to contain and with just a bit of luck he could have ended the game with five goals not just three. He is now the tournament’s leading scorer.
Forward Joe Corona (46th minute for Beckerman) - 6: Just added to the U.S. roster this week, he added a spark to the U.S. midfield that might have wanted to rest on a four-goal lead. He moved into the offense on a number of occasions as he was put under little pressure defensively.
Defender Brad Evans (46th minute for Chandler) - 6: Coming on for the injured Chandler, he proved an able replacement -- steady on defense and able to move forward on occasion.
Midfielder DeAndre Yedlin (67th minute for Johnson) – 5: He came on as a midfielder and with his pace, he was an immediate problem for Cuba’s defense. His final pass let him down occasionally.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Clint Dempsey.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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