The United States men’s national team opened its CONCACAF Nations League campaign with a 7-0 win against Cuba at Washington, D.C.’s Audi Field. It was a successful day at the office for a team that needed to gain some momentum coming off a string of uninspiring results. Manager Gregg Berhalter deployed the pool’s two most exciting players, Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie, not taking any risks for a possible upset.
The USMNT jumped out to an immediate lead, scoring one of the fastest goals in team history. Less than a minute into the match, Jordan Morris streaked down the right side of the field, sending in a low cross to McKennie. The Schalke midfielder took a touch and finished with ease.
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 an almost identical opportunity, the USMNT doubled the lead a few minutes later. Morris once again found space to run on the right side of the field and played a pass in for an onrushing McKennie, who merely had to redirect the ball into the net for his second of the night.
The Americans were able to open up space all over the field, with Cuba struggling to gain any momentum or slow down the attack. The goals continued to pour in as the rout intensified. Jordan Morris added a goal of his own, McKennie completed his hat trick, Cuba surrendered an own goal, and Josh Sargent pushed the score to 6-0 before the end of the half.
The second half began at a leisurely pace, with the play becoming less direct as neither team pushed the tempo. However, the scoring resumed after Cuba was called for a handball in the box. Pulisic converted from the spot, coolly lifting his ball into the space previously occupied by goalkeeper Nelson Johnston. There were a few more opportunities throughout the rest of the half, but the match ended an aesthetically pleasing 7-0.
Outings such as this tend to be a no-win situation for the more dominant country. A loss would be viewed as a disaster at worst, a fluke at best. The convincing result is expected, almost becoming less impressive as the margin of victory increases. Outside of Nations League implications, there wasn’t much to learn or room to grow, with the star, regular, and fringe players performing but (outside of McKennie’s pass to Morris on the 37th minute own goal) not doing anything groundbreaking or revealing. Cuba couldn’t contain the American attack, ceding too much space on the wings, something that won’t be available against better teams.
Of possible interest is Brad Guzan once again garnering the start at goalkeeper ahead of Sean Johnson. The primary backup spot remains up for grabs, with the veteran Guzan earning the previous two available caps. Regular number one and Fortuna Düsseldorf star Zack Steffen reportedly trained separately during the week, but there has been no indication he will be kept out of the upcoming Nations League match.
The USMNT returns to action on Tuesday, October 15th against Canada at BMO Field in Toronto. The Reds currently top League A Group A with six points after winning both matches against Cuba last month. While it probably won’t be a similar attacking festival, the expectation for Berhalter’s side is three points and nothing less.