GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala – With a spot in the quarterfinals secured, the U.S. futsal national team defeated Cuba, 4-2, to win Group D of the Concacaf Futsal Championship Wednesday afternoon.
Julian Escobar registered the first USA hat-trick since 2008, and Luciano Gonzalez’s goal with with 20 seconds reamining lifted the Americans ahead of El Salvador in the final standings on goals scored after the teams were level on points and goal differential.
The Salvadorian’s 5-2 victory over Nicaragua earlier in the day clinched the USA’s spot as one of the top two teams in the group before the Red, White and Blue even kicked off against Cuba.
The USA will face the Dominican Republic in Friday’s quarterfinals (TUDN, 1:30 p.m. ET), with El Salvador meeting hosts Guatemala. The winners of each match will earn two of the four Concacaf berths at the 2021 FIFA Futsal World Cup in Lithuania in September.
The USA won its group at the Concacaf Futsal Championship for the first time since 2008, when it also finished with seven points with a 2-0-1 mark.
Escobar became the first USA player to record a hat-trick in group play since the tournament began in 1996, and fourth to do accomplish the feat all-time. Former B.W. Gottschee standout Dario Brose (semifinal, 1996), Brian Loftin (third-place match, 2000) and Matthew Stewart (third-place match, 2008) were the others.
Despite having been eliminated, Cuba jumping scored after three minutes when Alejandro Marrero curled in a left-footed shot around goalkeeper Diego Moretti from 14 yards.
The USA answered with back-to-back goals by Escobar. The first came in the 12th minute, when Alencar Ventura-Junior chipped a corner kick across the court. Everson Maciel’s first-time strike from just outside the arc was deflected by the goalkeeper Ariel Perez, but the ball advanced towards the goal where Escobar pushed across to level things up.
Escobar went solo for his second just before the half, taking the ball across midfield into the penalty area before attempting to flick it past the keeper and putting away the rebound at the near post.
Eight minutes into the second half Cuba on a long through ball as Marrero fed Ricardo Castillo to close the gap to 3-2.
Realizing that the team needed to win by two and score at least four goals in order to win the Group, USA head coach Dusan Jakica turned to the fifth attacker with more than seven minutes remaining. The reward came soon enough, as Escobar’s pass-slash-shot from 17 yards took a slight deflection and was tucked into the side net to complete his hat-trick.
The USA kept its foot on the pedal and Gonzalez scored the key fourth goal with twenty second left, tapping in a corner from Adelcar Ventura-Junior at the goal mouth.