USA 6-0 Cuba: USMNT reaches Gold Cup semifinals with long-awaited explosion of goals (video)

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The US national team rode Clint Dempsey’s first-ever international hat trick to a resounding 6-0 victory over Cuba in the first of two 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal matches to be played at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md., on Saturday.

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After struggling through much of the group stage — though it finished top of Group A with seven out of nine points — Jurgen Klinsmann’s side finally put together the kind of explosion of goals for which American fans had been clamoring. Cuba began the game with just 18 players on their gameday roster after star striker Ariel Martinez defected from the team during the week.

It didn’t take long for the USMNT to break down Cuba’s extremely deep-lying defense. Clint Dempsey grabbed his fourth goal of the tournament — now all alone as the top scorer — when he got between two defenders and headed home Timothy Chandler’s right-sided cross in the 4th minute.

It took slightly longer for the Yanks to double their lead and go up 2-0, but as Cuba continued to sit deep and look for opportunities on the counter attack, the Americans poured on the pressure and were rewarded when Fabian Johnson’s left-sided cross floated delicately to Gyasi Zardes at the top of the six-yard box, where he applied the first-time finish between the legs of goalkeeper Diosvelis Guerra.

Goal No. 3 took slightly longer than the second, but arrived just past the half-hour mark, when Aron Johannsonn chipped Guerra from the corner of the 18-yard box. Guerra came rushing out in an attempt to clear Michael Bradley’s lofted diagonal ball, but found himself in no man’s land near the penalty spot. Johannsson lofted a delicate shot over Guerra and found the inside of the far post for a 3-0 lead.

[ GOLD CUP: Quarterfinals set | MEX 4-4 T&T — the craziest GC game ever? | CUB 1-0 GUA

Omar Gonzalez made it 4-0 just before halftime, when Johannsson cut Bradley’s corner kick back toward the top of the six-yard box for Gonzalez, who turned the ball over the line with a sliding finish from five yards out.

The USMNT’s fifth goal came via the penalty spot. Dempsey notched his fifth goal of the tournament with a dinked finish from 12 yards out after Johannsson was pulled down inside the penalty area in the 63rd minute.

Dempsey completed his hat trick in the 78th minute, when he finished with the outside of his foot from eight yards out. Bradley’s through ball from the right side of the box played Dempsey past a defender and into space, and the former-captain/still-talisman made no mistake from there.

The USMNT will face the winner of Saturday’s second semifinal between Jamaica and Haiti, at the Georgia Dome in Altanta, Ga.