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CONCACAF Gold Cup 2015: Saturday's Day 12 Takeaways

Michael Cummings@MikeCummings37World Football Lead WriterJuly 19, 2015

AP Images

Two of the four semifinalists are set after the quarterfinal round began on Saturday at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

In the early game at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium, the United States strolled to a 6-0 victory over outclassed Cuba.

In the second match, Jamaica edged Haiti 1-0 to set up a semifinal date with the Americans.

Here are the key takeaways from Day 12 at the Gold Cup.

Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

USMNT into semifinals after routing Cuba

After failing to fully impress in their three group-stage matches, the U.S. dominated an overmatched Cuba in the day's first quarterfinal, winning 6-0 behind Clint Dempsey's first international hat trick. The performance was the Americans' best of the tournament, which will come as good news to fans, even if Cuba represented the weakest opponent Jurgen Klinsmann's side has faced so far at this tournament.

Having qualified with just one win—and a goal differential of negative-seven—in the group stage, Cuba entered Saturday's match more than a bit shorthanded. As the Associated Press reported (h/t ESPN FC), only 19 of the squad's 23 players were available for selection, following a series of defections.

Bleacher Report's Joe Tansey had this observation:

Joe Tansey @JTansey90

This is exactly what we expected from the #USMNT today. Solid win vs. Weak opponent. Semis will be no easy task. #USAvCUB

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U.S. Soccer quoted Klinsmann on Dempsey's achievement and the team's upcoming semifinal:

U.S. Soccer MNT @ussoccer_mnt

JK on Dempsey's hat trick: A game like this is a huge opportunity for strikers. I told the strikers not to waste any chances. #USMNT

U.S. Soccer MNT @ussoccer_mnt

JK on Jamaica/Haiti: They're two very difficult teams to play. Either will be a grind. We'll prep for the next hurdle.

The difference in quality between the U.S. and Cuba was clearly evident on the pitch. The U.S. controlled the match from start to finish, taking the lead in just the fourth minute via Dempsey's first strike of the match, a header from a Timothy Chandler cross.

U.S. captain Michael Bradley
U.S. captain Michael BradleyNick Wass/Associated Press/Associated Press

Dempsey netted a penalty in the 64th minute and completed his hat trick 14 minutes later after an assist from Michael Bradley. Woven in between those strikes were goals from Gyasi Zardes, Aron Johannsson (a glorious chip in the 32nd minute) and Omar Gonzalez.

The U.S. now heads into the semifinals brimming with confidence, and rightfully so. Cuba were obviously overmatched, but the Americans took full advantage the way a good team should. Dempsey now leads the tournament with six goals—three more than Mexico's Oribe Peralta—and Bradley tops the charts with three assists.

Cuba never really posed a threat to the U.S. defense, but the Americans' attack is starting to really click. Now the trick will be replicating Saturday's performance against a much better side in the semifinals.

Nick Wass/Associated Press

Reggae Boyz end Haiti's run

Jamaica ended Haiti's surprising run with a narrow 1-0 victory in Saturday's second match. Much like in the group stage, Haiti thrilled spectators with exciting, attacking football. But much like in the group stage, when they scored just twice, Les Grenadiers struggled to turn their many chances into goals.

The stats were telling. According to CONCACAF.com, Haiti outshot Jamaica 25-15, including 7-6 on target, but 17 of those flew off target, with one off the woodwork. Such wasteful finishing won't win many knockout games in major international tournaments, and this one was no exception. Some of the credit, of course, must go to Jamaica's defense, which doggedly turned away their Caribbean rivals with a well-organized performance. But Haiti will likely head back home feeling it could have done better in front of goal.

Nick Wass/Associated Press

Jamaica netted the game's only goal in the seventh minute through Giles Barnes, who took advantage of a failed clearance by Frantz Bertin to finish opportunistically at the near post. Haiti responded with Duckens Nazon's shot off the upright in the 24th minute, but the Grenadiers were never able to find the equalizer.

The win sends Jamaica into the semifinals to face the U.S., a match that will serve as a stern test to Winfried Schaefer's side. The Reggae Boyz have conceded only two goals in four matches so far, but the U.S. appeared to click offensively in routing Cuba in Saturday's early match.

But with another solid defensive performance, Jamaica will have a chance against the defending champions. And after finishing ahead of favored Costa Rica in the group stage, the Reggae Boyz will be confident of pulling off an upset.

Follow @MiguelCominguez

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