October 11, 2008
By Michael Lewis
BETTER EARLIER THAN LATE
U.S. cruises past Cuba, 6-1, reaches CONCACAF final round of WCQ
Washington, D.C. -- Mission accomplished.
|DaMarcus Beasley just beats goalkeeper Odelin Molina to score his second goal of the USA's 6-1 rout of Cuba.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Needing a victory to move onto the next round of World Cup qualifying, the U.S. National Team did just that Saturday night, dispatching an outmanned Cuban side, 6-1, at RFK Stadium.
It was the earliest the Americans could have booked a spot in the final CONCACAF round as they improved their record to a Group 1 best 4-0.
DaMarcus Beasley struck twice in the opening half and Landon Donovan, Brian Ching, second-half sub Jozy Altidore and Oguchi Onyewu added goals as well. The Americans were aided by the fact they played the final 49 minutes a man up after a Cuban red card.
The win made the U.S.'s next two semifinal-round qualifiers superfluous. That will allow U.S. national coach Bob Bradley to rest veterans and give some younger players an opportunity to play at Trinidad & Tobago Wednesday and vs. Guatemala in Commerce City, Colo. Nov. 18.
The U.S. is trying to reach soccer's promised land -- the World Cup -- for the sixth consecutive time since qualifying for Italia '90 18 years ago. Only six other countries have participated in the past five consecutive World Cups -- Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Spain and South Korea.
The Americans struck early on Beasley's 16th international goal in the 10th minute in front of 20,293 spectators.
Ching battled a Cuban for an air ball outside the penalty area and Sacha Kljestan picked up the loose ball and sent a right-footed pass to Beasley into the area. With the angle narrowing as he penetrated on the left flank, Beasley deftly placed a curling shot off his his foot past goalkeeper Odelin Molina into the far corner.
The opening half had a similar rhythm. The U.S. would string together passes for fairly long periods of time, try to break through with a pass and shoot it wide or have the ball taken away. Cuba then inevitably would lose the ball with an errant pass before the Caribbean side could pass the halfway line. And then the sequence would start up again.
Beasley was at it again in the 31st minute as he and long-time international teammate Landon Donovan combined for the Americans' second goal. Donovan sent a looping pass from the right side. Beasley broke from his man, defender Reysander Fernandez, who apparently was waiting for referee Roberto Moreno Salazar to call offside. But Beasley was onside by a country mile and broke in alone on Molina and beat him to the lower right corner.
Barely a minute later, the Cuban struck for a rare goal surrendered by the U.S. side. Midfielder Alain Cervantes' left-wing cross found Jenzy Munoz outside the box and the forward took a couple of steps and fired a perfectly placed shot from 24 yards that skimmed off the crossbar over goalkeeper Tim Howard and into the goal. It was the first goal allowed by the Americans in qualifying. They entered the match with five straight shutouts in qualifying -- six if you include the scoreless tie with Argentina at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. June 15.
The Cubans were hit with a devastating blow in the 41st minute when midfielder Yoel Colome was given his marching orders by Salazar for his second yellow card. Colome tripped Donovan at midfield and Salazar first flashed a yellow and then a red card. Colome's first yellow came in the 21st minute when he fouled Beasley in Cuba's attacking area.
With the second half barely three minutes old, the U.S. certainly took advantage of the extra room, putting together eight passes from at least six players to create its third goal from deep in its own territory to the doorstep of the Cuban goal. The last three players to touch the ball were Donovan, striker Brian Ching, left fullback Heath Pearce, who gave Donovan a left-wing cross that he had few problems finishing from in-close.
It was Donovan's ninth qualifying goal, which left him breathing down the neck of U.S. all-time leader Brian McBride (10 goals).
The onslaught continued in the 63rd minute as Ching scored his fourth goal in his last five international matches, heading home a Beasley free kick from six yards for a 4-1 advantage.
Altidore made it 5-1 in the 87th minute, racing onto a through ball by Clint Dempsey, faking out Carlos Domingo on the left side before beating Molina to the near post. It was his first qualifying goal and second international score.
Onyewu, a central defender, put the exclamation point on the match, heading in a feed from second-half sub Freddy Adu in the 90th minute.