July 18, 2015
By Michael Lewis
Dempsey hat trick leads U.S. over Cuba 6-0
BALTIMORE -- The United States and Clint Dempsey made quick work of Cuba Saturday, striking for four goals in the opening half en route to a 6-0 win in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup at M&T Bank Stadium.
Dempsey finished with his first hat-trick in his international career, leading the USA into the semifinals for the eighth consecutive time.
With game-time temperature at 91 degrees and humidity hovering at 66 percent, the huge margin of victory allowed the USA to expend as little energy as possible as it looks toward the Wednesday's semifinal.
The Americans also recorded their largest margin of victory in 13 Gold Cup tournaments, dating back to 1991.
“It’s not easy getting a rhythm going in the heat for both teams,” USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “They tried to make the fans happy. A nice result."
Dempsey took over the competition's scoring lead with six goals. He also increased his international career scoring total to 47, which includes five against Cuba. Gyasi Zardes, Aron Johansson and Omar Gonzalez also tallied for the Americans, who will play the winner of the second game of the doubleheader between Jamaica and Haiti, in the semis in Atlanta.
Klinsmann made light of Dempsey’s first hat-trick.
“I didn’t know it was his first hat-trick,” he said with a smile in the post-game press conference. “It took him a long time.”
The media laughed.
Klinsmann then became serious about the Seattle Sounders striker.
“For a striker, it’s a huge opportunity,” he said. “You don’t want to miss that chance. Once we are in the box we are very clinical and Clint was the best example.”
As the saying goes, Dempsey certainly did not make a meal of his chances.
“He’s hungry, hungry for goals. He has two more meals,” Klinsmann said. “The next game I was him to score. He seems happy. He seems balanced.”
The USA had few problems solving the Cubans' midfield and ultimately its backline.
Dempsey gave the USA all the scoring it needed in the fourth minute. Right back Timmy Chandler sent a cross from the flank into the area and Dempsey headed it past goalkeeper Diosvelis Guerra Santiesteban from seven yards for a 1-0 advantage.
It was Dempsey's fourth goal of the tournament, which broke a tie with Mexico's Oribe Peralta, giving him the scoring lead. He also scored against the Cubans in the 2005 Gold Cup and in a 1-0 World Cup qualifying victory in Havana in September 2008.
It also was Dempsey's ninth career Gold Cup goal, tying him with U.S. Hall of Famer Eric Wynalda for second place on the USA list. They trail Landon Donovan, who retired with 18 Gold Cup goals.
After Angel Horta fouled Johannson in the attacking third, the Americans' other outside defender, Fabian Johnson, created their second goal. He floated in a cross from the left side that Zardes had no problems slotting home his second international goal from five yards for a 2-0 margin in the 15th minute.
Johannsson joined the party in the 32nd minute, taking a long pass from captain Michael Bradley and chipping Guerra from right edge of the penalty area for his second international score.
A minute later both teams took a hydration break because the temperature was more than 90 degrees, although it was more like a much-needed timeout for the Cubans, who were struggling on defense.
As it turned out, it did not help the Caribbean side, although Dario Suarez took the Cubans' first attempt in the 39th minute, a shot that goalkeeper Brad Guzan had few problems gathering in.
Six minutes later, the Americans celebrated their fourth goal. Bradley initiated the sequence with a corner kick from the left side that Johannsson headed to Gonzalez. The LA Galaxy center back poked it home from four yards for his first international goal.
At halftime, USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann made two changes, bringing on Brad Evans for Chandler, who had soreness in his right knee, and Joe Corona on for Kyle Beckerman.
Regardless who was on the field, the Americans were relentless in the second half. Bradley rushed into the penalty area in the 58th minute and forced Guerra to produce a kick save.
Only five minutes later, Horta took down Johannsson in the box as referee Henry Bejarano of Costa Rica called a penalty kick, setting up goal No. 5.
Dempsey extended his tournament scoring lead to five goals, powering his shot down the middle in the 64th minute.
He wasn't finished. Bradley took advantage of a Cuban error in the 78th minute, bolted down the right side and fed a sliding Dempsey, who knocked the ball home for a 6-0 advantage.