The United States made short work of Cuba thanks in part to a first-half hat trick from Weston McKennie as the Americans began their inaugural CONCACAF Nations League campaign with a 7-0 win on Friday night in Washington D.C.
Josh Sargent got his second competitive senior national team start and Christian Pulisic wore the captain’s armband as the U.S. raced out to a record-setting start in the first half.
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McKennie scored twice inside the opening five minutes, smashing home a right-footed shot at the near post and tapping in from close range on a pair of assists from Jordan Morris.
Morris then added a goal of his own with a calm finish from the left side of the penalty area with McKennie the provider, before the Schalke player finished off his hat trick with another close-range finish from Reggie Cannon’s cross to make it 4-0 on 13 minutes.
It was the fastest that any U.S. team had reached the four-goal mark in national team history, obliterating the previous mark of 33 minutes against Cayman Islands in 1993 and was also the fastest any American had scored a goal from the opening whistle.
The previous fastest hat trick for the U.S. from the opening whistle was by Brian McBride’s in the 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup against El Salvador, when he scored in the ninth, 11th and 21st minutes.
Following the match U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter had high praise for McKennie and Pulisic: “For a midfielder, [McKennie] arrives very well in the penalty box… When you have a midfielder that can score goals and arrive in the penalty box like that, it makes you dynamic. It makes you better.
“With Christian, there’s a lot that we haven’t uncovered. We’re still trying to figure it out. He has so many different layers to him that we’d like to look at him in different positions. If we can bring out those skills in him consistently, he’s going to develop nicely in his career.”
The first-half goalfest for the U.S. continued in the 39th minute when a Morris shot ricoheted off Cuba’s keeper and then a defender and found the back of the net and Josh Sargent finished off a swift counter by the Americans to give them a 6-0 lead at the break.
The U.S. got its seventh goal from a penalty kick just after the hour mark when Pulisic converted from the spot following a clear handball in the area by Cuba defender Dariel Morejon.
Berhalter’s team played out the rest of the match at a canter with a mix of scrappy defending and good goalkeeping from Cuba holding the home side to the lone goal in the second half.
The margin of victory tied the second largest in U.S. history, falling one goal short of the all-time record in a 8-0 win over Barbados in 2008.
Next up for the U.S. is an another Nations League match, this time against Group A leaders Canada, who have played one more game than the Americans, at BMO FIeld on Oct. 15.
Of the Canada match, Berhalter added: “These are the games that are going to help our team grow. We’re really looking forward to a game like this. We’re going to learn a lot about our group.
“If I could have written the game up, it would have been exactly like this. Score early, score many goals early, and then cruise. I think we saved ourselves. I think we’ll be fit and ready to go against Canada.”