The United States has been roundly criticized despite winning Group A in the Gold Cup for not putting on a dominant or comprehensive performance against an inferior opponent. On Saturday night they provided that kind of match, trouncing Cuba 6-0 in Baltimore to earn a berth in the semi-finals.
It was the kind of utter beat-down that fans had been waiting for, and given the chance against a defection-weakened Cuban team, they delivered. Clint Dempsey lead the way with a hat-trick, the final tally tying Landon Donovan's U.S. record for non-penalty goals with 42.
Dempsey got things started right in the 4th minute. Right-back Timmy Chandler chipped in a pinpoint cross from the top outside corner of the box - left-footed - and found the head of an unmarked Deuce between the two center-backs. The former USA captain snapped his header home with ease.
Gyasi Zardes doubled the lead in the 15th, continuing his progression with the national team. Fabian Johnson hit a cross from the left-back position nearly identical to Chandler's earlier delivery, and Zardes ghosted in behind the defense to tap home between goalkeeper Diosvelis Guerra's legs.
The Yanks could have eased up, but much to the excitement of the crowd and manager Jurgen Klinsmann, they refused to take the foot off the gas. In the 32nd minute, Aron Johannsson made a beautifully-timed run off the shoulder of the center-backs to receive a ball over the top from Michael Bradley. Guerra made the very poor decision to come off his line, and the AZ Alkmaar striker quickly turned and chipped him from the edge of the box at an angle to make it 3-0.
The half closed with the Nats fourth goal. A Michael Bradley corner to the far post was headed back into the six by Johannsson. Center-back Omar Gonzalez was there to go lateral and sweep the ball home for his first international goal.
The second half saw Klinsmann make two changes. With the result in hand and the 90-plus degree heat in Baltimore taking its toll, he pulled Timmy Chandler and Kyle Beckerman and replaced them with Brad Evans and Joe Corona.
While a four-nil result would certainly be satisfying, the USA made it five in the 64th minute. Johannsson was tugged down in the box and Dempsey stepped up to the spot. He tucked away a sort of low chip down the middle that Guerra fell away from.
With Dempsey on hat-trick watch, his teammates were suddenly motivated to put their foot to the throat of their opponent, and in the process, get Dempsey his first international three-spot. It came in the 78th minute when Bradley picked up an awful defensive clearance and drove into the box before squaring for Deuce to his left. Dempsey appeared unready for the ball, but rounded his defender and caught up with it in time to flick it into the back of the net with the outside of his right foot for the hat-trick.
The USA will play next in the semi-finals on July 22nd in the Georgia Dome.