The USMNT opened its run in the first ever Concacaf Nations League comfortably, smashing Cuba 7-0 in front of just 13,784 fans at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. Weston McKennie bagged a hat trick to lead the onslaught, as the Yanks scored six times before the first half was over in the easy victory. Jordan Morris added a goal and three assists — all in the first half.
Gregg Berhalter went with a mixed lineup against the Cubans, with a back line of Daniel Lovitz, Tim Ream, Matt Miazga, and Reggie Cannon in front of goalkeeper Brad Guzan. Weston McKennie, Cristian Roldan, and Jackson Yueill patroled the midfield behind Cristian Pulisic, Josh Sargent, and Morris.
It took only 32 seconds for the USMNT to get on the board. Cannon sent Morris down the right flank. The Sounders forward crossed in behind Pulisic but McKennie made a late back post run and fired home to open the scoring.
The USMNT are off to a flying start vs Cuba!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) October 11, 2019
Weston McKennie scores 31 seconds in in their CONCACAF Nations League opener. ⚽ pic.twitter.com/I4cI8QecYJ
It was the second-fastest opening goal in USMNT history, bested only by Clint Dempsey’s World Cup goal against Ghana.
Four minutes later, the same basic thing happened. Miazga gave it to Cannon, who sent Morris down the right to cross in for McKennie to tap home, making it a brace in the game’s first five minutes.
In the ninth minute, McKennie returned the favor by setting up Morris for a goal as the USMNT continued finding acres of space in the attacking third.
Roldan was nearly in alone on goal in the 12th minute but the offside flag came up, although replay showed the midfielder was clearly onside. No matter. McKennie slammed home a cross from Cannon a minute later to make it 4-0 as the rout was on only 13 minutes in. It’s the fastest hat trick from the start of a game in USMNT history.
Cuba nearly pulled a goal back in the 15th minute on its only real chance of the first half. A shot from outside the area hit forward Maykel Reyes and deflected inches wide of the right post on a shot Guzan had no chance of stopping with the change of direction.
McKennie nearly picked up a fourth goal in the 20th minute, sending a shot toward the back post but a good one-handed save by goalkeeper Nelson Johnson. Pulisic then sent a shot just wide of the post off a defender and Sargent nodded just wide off a set piece as the barrage continued. Pulisic fizzed a shot just over the bar in the 32nd.
In the 33rd minute McKennie again nearly scored his fourth, getting in behind but Johnson made a save, deflecting it over the bar. He then had another shot blocked on the ensuing corner as the ball just kept finding him.
The fifth goal came just a few minutes later and was an own goal off the face of Cuban defender Dario Ramos. McKennie set it up with a sly backheel pass for Morris, who had his shot saved and it hit Ramos in the face and deflected in to make it 5-0.
Sargent made it 6-0 in the 40th minute, taking a layoff from Morris after a wonderful ball over the top from Yueill started the attack.
Sargent nearly had a second in the 42nd minute. Morris gave him another great cutback cross and Johnson made the save. The young forward picked up a knock seconds later. Miazga and Sargent went up for the cross on the ensuing corner and the U.S. striker went down holding his foot. He was able to come back on after the training staff attended to him, but moments later the halftime whistle blew with the Yanks up 6-0.
Morris tied a USMNT record with his three first-half assists, equaling the team’s assist record for an entire game, held by Cobi Jones and Landon Donovan — who did it twice.
Berhalter pulled his cheat codes — Mckennie and Morris — off at halftime, replacing them with Tyler Boyd and Paul Arriola. The USMNT attack slowed a bit as the new players worked their way up to game speed and Cuba committed a couple heavy challenges, the second of which resulted in a booking for Ramos.
Cannon found Lovitz sneaking in behind with a beautiful long ball in the 53rd but the left back couldn’t quite flick it on target. Moments later, Roldan fired wide of the net. Sargent came close to a second goal in the 57th and 58th minutes but the ball was cut out by Erick Rizo on the first and the cross was just out of reach from Lovitz on the second.
Cuba managed to flash a shot through the six-yard box in the 59th but Guzan wasn’t troubled by it and let it go out for a goal kick.
The seventh goal came in the 62nd minute. Lovitz sent a ball into the area that hit the out-stretched arm of defender Daniel Morejon for a clear-cut penalty. Pulisic immediately grabbed the ball and went to the spot, then beat Johnson right down the middle to make it 7-0.
Shortly after the goal, Pulisic departed for Sebastian Lletget. The U.S. kept the ball more and didn’t press forward quite as much.
A tremendous save from Johnson kept the U.S. at seven goals, as he made a spectacular diving stop in the 79th to deny a Roldan blast that changed directions off a defender. Lletget smashed a shot about a foot wide of the right post in the 85th minute. Sargent then stole the ball in the 90th and walked in alone on goal but blasted his shot over the bar.
Seconds later, the final whistle signaled the end of a lopsided win for the Yanks.
The USMNT will visit Canada on Tuesday night for the team’s second match of the competition. Canada currently leads the group with six points after sweeping two matches against Cuba, although the U.S. is level on goal differential with the Canadians.