Olympic qualifying: USA hammers Cuba, 6-1

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KANSAS CITY, KAN. — The United States under-23 national team is officially into the semifinals of the 2015 CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship, one win away from qualifying for the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, after hammering an overwhelmed and undermanned (five players have defected since joining the team this week) Cuba side, 6-1 here at Sporting Park.

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Cameron Carter-Vickers put the Americans on the board in the 16th minute, when he headed home Luis Gil’s free kick from no more than four yards out. Gil’s in-swinging ball beat the first line of Cuban defenders and fell ever-so-perfectly to the head of the retreating Tottenham Hotspur center back.

Matt Miazga gave the U.S. U23s a deserved 2-0 lead in the 36th minute. Matt Polster whipped in the out-swinging cross, Miazga rose above multiple defenders nine yards from goal and sent a looping, bouncing header for the far post where Cuban shot-stopped Sandy Sanchez could do nothing about it.

[ MORE: Get to know the current USMNT U-23 squad ]

Two minutes later, Jordan Morris fed Jerome Kiesewetter his first goal of the tournament on a silver platter. Gil played Morris, who scored twice off of Kiesewetter assists Thursday night, into the penalty area. As Sanchez raced out to close down Morris’s shooting angle, the Stanford University standout squared the ball to Kiesewetter at the top of the six-yard box. No mistake from Kiesewetter, who slotted the ball home first-time.

Kiesewetter made it 4-0 to the U.S. U-23s in the 49th minute. Marc Pelosi crossed the ball from wide of the six-yard box, past the scrambling Sanchez, all the way across the endline. Kiesewetter, 22, was waiting at the far post and hammered the ball into an empty net.

[ MORE: USA 3-1 Canada (Thursday night) | Three things we learned ]

Emerson Hyndman’s finish from a tight angle made it 5-0 in the 69th minute.

Alonso Hernandez made it 6-0 in the 76th minute. Gboly Ariyibi played the FC Juarez striker into the penalty area, where a thoroughly defeated Cuba defense was slow to close him down. Hernandez for the near post and bagged his first goal of the tournament.

Daniel Luis scored Cuba’s late consolation goal in the 92nd minute.

Up next for the U.S. is a clash with Panama on Tuesday in Commerce City, Colo. A draw secures top spot in Group A, meaning the not-so-baby Yanks would play the runners-up from Group B (Mexico are expected to finish top) in the semifinals. The two semifinal winners secure automatic qualification for next summer’s Olympics. If the U.S. lose on Tuesday, Canada could finish top with a win and the making up of seven goals in the goal differential column.