Weston McKennie had an early hat-trick for the USA. (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)
WASHINGTON, D.C. — It was never really a contest.
Only 32 seconds after the opening kickoff, the rout was on.
Midfielder Weston McKennie had the honors of connecting for the first goal of the Concacaf Nations League match and U.S. was on its way to a 7-0 triumph over an undermanned Cuba side at Audi Field Friday night.
McKennie? He was on his way to a hat-trick. In fact, he tallied the quickest three goals by a U.S. male player from the opening kickoff to the 13th minute. He also was the first American men’s player to register a hat-trick since Clint Dempsey accomplished the feat in 2017.
The Americans (1-0) needed to fill the net against Cuba (0-3) because goal differential will determine the winner of League A Group A in case the USA is tied Canada for the group l, in terms of seeding for World Cup qualifying in the hexagonal in 2020. The fiaderst-place team will move on while the second-place squad would have to go through a much longer road to reach the hex and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The USA failed to equalize its highest margin of victory, which was set in an 8-0 victory over Barbados in a World Cup qualifier in Carson, Calif. in June 2008.
The Cubans brought less than a fully experienced side to the U.S. after five players defected when the team played in Canada last month. One player, defender Yonaidis Garcia, had gone missing prior to Friday night’s match and he presumably defected.
McKennie set the tone in the opening minute as he converted a Jordan Morris cross from the right flank that eluded two teammates. The ball found McKennie, who slotted it home from the left side past goalkeeper Nelson Johnston.
McKennie doubled the lead in the fifth minute and Morris struck from the left side in the ninth minute. The striker made it three goals in the 13th minute as he put home a Reggie Cannon cross for a 4-0 advantage.
Morris made it a five-goal bulge in the 37th minute as Johnston saved his left-sided shot. The rebound, however, went off the face of Cuban defender Dario Ramos and into the goal.
“I took advantage of our style of play,” McKennie told FS1. “One of my strengths is getting in the box and getting there at the right place at the right time.
“As a team we’ve been in camps very often and we’re getting familiar with each other.”
Things escalated quickly in #USAvCUB! It took Weston McKennie just 13 minutes to record a hat trick, setting a new #USMNT record for fastest hat trick at the start of a game. Watch all three here!
Posted by U.S. Soccer on Friday, October 11, 2019
Video courtesy of U.S. Soccer’s Facebook page
Josh Sargent wrote his name onto the score sheet, connecting from 12 yards off Morris’ third assist of the half in the 40th minute.
McKennie was taken out at halftime.
Christian Pulisic joined the party in the 62nd minute after defender Dariel Morejón was called for a handball. Pulisic drilled a shot down the middle of the goal while Johnston dove to the right for a 7-0 lead.
Sargent had an opportunity to make it an eight-goal margin in the 90th minute, but he powered his attempt over the crossbar.
The USA visits Canada in a key Group A match at BMO Field in Toronto Tuesday night.