Dempsey hat trick helps U.S. earn early knock­out at Gold Cup

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY STEVEN GOFF

bal­ti­more — The out­come was set­tled well be­fore half­time, a breezy vic­tory on a roast­ing sum­mer day in Charm City. The U.S. men’s na­tional soc­cer team made quick work of a Cuban squad un­der­cut by po­lit­i­cal de­fec­tions, 6-0, in a CONCACAF Gold Cup quar­ter­fi­nal be­fore 37,994 at M&T Bank Sta­dium.

Clint Dempsey headed in the fourth minute, and Gyasi Zardes volleyed in the 15th. Aron Jo­hanns­son chipped in the 32nd minute, and Omar Gon­za­lez swept in the 45th.

Dempsey added two goals in the sec­ond half to notch his first in­ter­na­tional hat trick and in­crease his tour­na­ment-best tally to six and U.S. ca­reer mark to 47— 10 be­hind the re­tired Lan­don Dono­van in the Amer­i­can record books.

“We wanted them to take it re­ally se­ri­ously,” Coach Jur­gen Klins­mann said of his play­ers’ mind-set. “We didn’t want to waste any­thing. We didn’t want to fool around or show off. I made it very, very clear: If some­one on the field takes it lightly, I am go­ing to

take them off af­ter 10 min­utes.”

Nochanges were nec­es­sary. The Amer­i­cans were mer­ci­less and clin­i­cal, parad­ing to Wed­nes­day’s semi­fi­nal in At­lanta against Ja­maica, which de­feated Haiti, 1-0, in the sec­ond semi­fi­nal in Bal­ti­more.

The other bracket will be set­tled Sun­day at Met Life Sta­dium in East Rutherford, N. J., with Trinidad and Tobago against Panama and Mexico vs. Costa Rica.

While Klins­mann’s lineup de­ci­sions cre­ated mild in­trigue, po­lit­i­cal de­fec­tions left the Cuban ros­ter in peril. Four play­ers were known to have left the del­e­ga­tion in the past 10 days; five names were crossed off the of­fi­cial list be­fore kick­off, leav­ing the team with 18 play­ers.

Univi­sion re­ported that, fol­low­ing a 1-0 vic­tory over Gu­atemala on Wed­nes­day in Char­lotte, at­tacker Ariel Martinez, 29, was in tears as he ran from the team bus upon re­turn­ing to the ho­tel.

“The play­ers that aren’t here now don’t re­ally mean any­thing to us be­cause they have cho­sen their path,” Cuba Coach Raul Gon­za­lez said through an in­ter­preter.

On Fri­day, Klins­mann spoke of how the off-field tur­moil could gal­va­nize the over­matched Cubans. He em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of set­ting the terms right away and press­ing for an early goal. He had to wait just 31/ min­utes.

2 Zardes tracked down Fabian John­son’s cross on the far side of the penalty area and touched the ball back to Timmy Chan­dler for a high ball from 30 yards that met Dempsey for an eight-yard header over goal­keeper Diosvelis Guerra.

Eleven min­utes passed be­fore John­son swung a left-side cross to Zardes, a 23-year-old Los An­ge­les Gal­axy at­tacker, for an al­most ef­fort­less six-yard volley and his sec­ond ca­reer goal.

“Just to get the first two goals is won­der­ful be­cause that team just kept chas­ing the ball,” Zardes said, “and we tried to keep it as much as pos­si­ble just to drain them.”

Both teams had to con­tend with a game-time tem­per­a­ture of 91.5 de­grees and thick hu­mid­ity, but with a two-goal deficit, the Cubans wilted first. They posed no threat, des­per­ate just to avoid em­bar­rass­ment.

The Amer­i­cans scored twice more be­fore half­time.

Michael Bradley’s 50-yard ball over the top of the Cuban de­fense linked with Jo­hanns­son. He set­tled it, then chipped Guerra from the top of the penalty area for his fourth in­ter­na­tional tally.

The fourth strike came just be­fore in­ter­mis­sion: a cor­ner kick by Bradley, a header by Jo­hanns­son and a four-yard fin­ish by Gon­za­lez, the for­mer Mary­land Ter­rapin who recorded his first U.S. goal in 28 ap­pear­ances.

Given the lop­sided score, Dempsey’s 64th-minute penalty kick did not elicit the usual cel­e­bra­tion. He had, how­ever, taken a cheeky ap­proach, send­ing a soft shot down the mid­dle as Guerra cov­ered the left cor­ner.

In the 78th, Bradley’s di­ag­o­nal ball in­side the penalty area found Dempsey for an an­gled, slid­ing, side-footed fin­ish.

The Seat­tle Sounders star had en­joyed four two-goal games in his 101/ 2- year na­tional team ca­reer but never a hat trick un­til Satur­day.

“It took him a long time,” Klins­mann joked af­ter­ward.

With lit­tle fanfare af­ter the last goal, Dempsey ac­cepted a hug and hand­shake from Bradley. At­lanta awaited.

“That con­fi­dence def­i­nitely grows in the team,” Dempsey said. “And as the tour­na­ment goes on, we are get­ting stronger as a group, and hope­fully our best ball is yet to come.”

In the sec­ond match, Giles Barnes (Hous­ton Dy­namo) scored from a tight an­gle in the sev­enth minute as Ja­maica se­cured its first semi­fi­nal berth since 1998.

Notes: Midfielder Kyle Beck­er­man, an Anne Arun­del County na­tive, played the first 45 min­utes. . . .

Chan­dler left at half­time with a sore knee. DaMar­cus Beasley, who came out of in­ter­na­tional re­tire­ment this week to join the Gold Cup squad, was held out with a calf ail­ment. . . .

Gon­za­lez started in place of John Brooks, who served a yel­low card sus­pen­sion.

PA­TRICK SEMANSKY/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Clint Dempsey cel­e­brates one of his three goals in the United States’ rout of Cuba in the Gold Cup quar­ter­fi­nals in Bal­ti­more.

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