USA Takes Top Spot in 2019 CONCACAF Nations League Group A With Win vs. Cuba

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistNovember 20, 2019

United States' Josh Sargent holds a ball during the second half of a CONCACAF Nations League soccer game against Cuba Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, in Washington. The U.S. won 7-0. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Julio Cortez/Associated Press

The United States men's national team cruised to a 4-0 win over Cuba in the CONCACAF Nations League on Tuesday at Truman Bodden Sports Complex in George Town, Cayman Islands. 

The victory propels the U.S. into the top spot in Group A and through to the semifinals of the Nations League.

U.S. Soccer MNT @USMNT

FT | That’ll do it! With tonight’s win against 🇨🇺, the #USMNT advances to the @CNationsLeague Knockout Round. https://t.co/lZieUTlqXG

Josh Sargent scored the opener 36 seconds into the first half for the United States and netted a second goal in the 66th minute. Jordan Morris had a brace as well before getting subbed off to start the second half.

The United States gained a measure of revenge in its last match, beating Canada 4-1 last Friday. The final score gave the U.S. a superior goal difference to Canada, which meant the USMNT owned the head-to-head tiebreaker if it finished level with the Canadians on points.

Morris knew the squad couldn't afford to look past Cuba, no matter how much Tuesday's match was one-sided on paper.

"The job's not done," he said following the win over Canada. "We can enjoy this, but tomorrow we focus on how we can do better and how we can beat Cuba."

Cuba hardly had time to settle into the game before it was staring at a one-goal deficit.

FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer

The USMNT get going early! ⏱ Josh Sargent bundles the ball over the line inside the first minute for the 1-0 lead. #CUBvUSA https://t.co/TgcAJuT8Sn

It was the second straight match in which the United States scored inside the opening minute against Cuba. Weston McKennie put the U.S. ahead 1-0 with 30 seconds elapsed on Oct. 11.

Morris doubled the United States' lead in the 26th minute and added his second goal in the 39th minute.

FOX Soccer @FOXSoccer

Jordan Morris doubles the lead! He's now got 4 goals and 4 assists in his last 5 USMNT games. 🔥🔥 https://t.co/YjrmJdoecr

The score was an accurate illustration of the gulf between the United States and Cuba, but it was anything but a peerless performance from Gregg Berhalter's squad.

The early goal allowed the U.S. to take its foot off the gas a bit, and the playing conditions made it almost impossible to string multiple passes together for an attacking move forward.

Collin McCollough @cmccollo

If anyone ever complains to me about a soccer playing surface again, I'm going to reference this Cuba-USMNT match, which is apparently being played on a junior high lacrosse field.

Cuba's usual home stadium, the Estadio Pedro Marrero in Havana, failed the CONCACAF inspection. That left the country scrambling for a replacement venue, and the Cayman Islands were the alternative.

Grant Wahl @GrantWahl

Good to see how supportive they are of the hammer throw in the Cayman Islands. https://t.co/ojF7fEqzQ5

Especially with the playing surface in less than ideal shape, mitigating the risk of an injury was the primary directive for Berhalter and his players in the second half.

Amid a string of disappointing results—none more so the 2-0 defeat to Canada on Oct. 15—Berhalter was starting to feel the pressure a bit despite being just shy of one full year into the job.

Beating Canada and then securing a first-place finish in Group A provides the United States with a little momentum heading into 2020 while still leaving the team with plenty of questions to answer.


What's Next?

The Nations League knockout round begins in June 2020. The USMNT awaits the result of Mexico's match with Bermuda to know its semifinal opponent.