By The Associated Press
Josh Sargent scored the first of his two goals 34 seconds in, Jordan Morris also had two goals and the United States routed Cuba 4-0 at George Town, Cayman Islands, on Tuesday night to reach the semifinals of the first CONCACAF Nations League.
The U.S. finished 3-1 in Group A along with Canada and earned first place because of a better goal difference, plus-12 to plus-six. Cuba was last in the group at 0-4 and was outscored 18-0.
The U.S. likely will play Honduras in the Nations League semifinals in June, with Mexico meeting Costa Rica.
Trying to rebound from its failure to qualify from the 2018 World Cup, the U.S. finished Gregg Berhalter’s first year as coach with 11 wins, five losses and two draws, a record that included a 1-0 defeat to Mexico in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final. The Americans ended an 11-match road winless streak (six losses, five draws) dating to a 2-0 win at Havana in an October 2016 friendly.
Qualifying for the 2022 World Cup starts late next year, with two matches each in September, October and November, followed by two games apiece in March and September of 2021. The U.S. will be joined in the six-nation hexagonal by Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, Jamaica and most likely Canada or El Salvador, and the top three will earn berths at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Sargent got his second goal in the 66th minute for his first two-goal international match, giving the 19-year-old five goals in 12 games with the national team.
Recovered from a torn right anterior cruciate ligament that sidelined him for most of 2018, the 25-year-old Morris scored in the 26th and 39th minutes. He had five goals and six assists in 14 games for the U.S. this year.
U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan earned his 20th shutout.
The U.S. has won 12 straight games against Cuba over 70 years. This match, moved because of stadium renovations in Havana, was played on the 30th anniversary of the United States’ 1-0 win at Trinidad and Tobago that returned the Americans to the World Cup for the first time since 1950.
Last month in Washington, D.C., Weston McKennie scored 32 seconds in and started the U.S. to a 7-0 rout, the second-fastest U.S. goal after Clint Dempsey’s score at 30 seconds against Ghana at the 2014 World Cup.
The 23rd-ranked U.S. went ahead nearly as quickly in the second match against No. 179 Cuba despite missing five regulars because of injuries: midfielders Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams and Michael Bradley, goalkeeper Zack Steffen and forward Jozy Altidore.
DeAndre Yedlin took a throw-in that Paul Arriola redirected toward the goal, and Sargent knocked the ball past goalkeeper Sandy Sánchez.
The U.S. doubled the lead when Jackson Yueill’s long pass was headed on by McKennie to Morris, who controlled the ball, broke in alone, then slotted in a right-footed shot from 8 yards.
Long’s header following a corner kick was blocked, leading to the third goal. Long’s cross deflected off José Almelo and came down at the goal line, where Morris stuck out his right foot to deflect the ball in for his 10th goal in 39 international appearances and fifth in five games.
Yedlin limped off in the 59th minute.
Sargent got the final goal when Reggie Cannon crossed and Tyler Boyd’s back-heel pass left Sargent with an open left-footed shot from 6 yards.
Notes: Fox announcers John Strong and Stu Holden broadcast the match off a monitor in Fox’s Los Angeles studio.