KENYA BROWN - Sunday, October 13, 2019
Weston McKennie led the way with a first-half hat-trick as the US national team opened their CONCACAF Nations League campaign with an expected win over Cuba on Friday night.
While the new regional tournament has come in for some criticism by some as they see it not helping the team when instead they should be testing themselves against tougher competition, Gregg Berhalter's men got the job done at Audi Field in Washington, DC, as the game could have easily ended in a double-digit scoreline.
Berhalter set up a 4-3-3 formation, with Christian Pulisic and Jordan Morris deployed on the wings and Josh Sargent taking up the center forward spot. McKennie, Jackson Yueill, and Christian Roldan would handle things in the midfield. The backline consisted of the foursome of Reggie Cannon, Daniel Lovitz, Tim Ream, and Matt Miazga.
And the host did not wait long to get their first goal of the game just 30 seconds in when Morris's cross from the right side bounced past a few players in the area and found a wide-open McKennie who slotted the ball past Cuban goalkeeper Nelson Johnston.
It only took the Schalke midfielder four minutes to score his and the United States' second on the night when Morris once again came down the right side to put a cross into the area. Johnston would try to cut off the pass, but missed the ball completely, allowing McKennie to get a foot on the ball and tap it across the goal line.
Morris would then turn from provider to goalscorer in the ninth minute when McKennie's through-ball released him and he put his shot past Johnston.
McKennie then completed his 13-minute hat-trick when he made another run into the area to put away a low cross from the right side by Reggie Cannon.
Dario Ramos was credited for an own goal in 37th minute when Morris' attempt at goal was stopped by Johnston, but the deflection off his leg would hit the Cuban center-back in the face and the ball bounced into the goal.
Josh Sargent got on the score sheet in the 40th minute when Morris brought down a long ball from the back and then lay it off for the forward to fire his shot into the back of the net.
It was a strong first-half performance for the Americans and they should have scored plenty of more goals in the second, but they could only grab a penalty after the hour mark when Pulisic stepped up to send his down the middle of the goal.
The US will now head north where they will take on Canada in Toronto on Tuesday.