It wasn’t pretty, but in the end, it all worked out. The U.S. men advanced to the final round of the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League with a 4-0 win over Cuba in front of a small crowd in George Town in the Cayman Islands.
The victory gives the U.S. Group A title over Canada (both 3-1-0 for nine points) by goal differential (+12 to +6) with Cuba finishing 0-4 (and -14). The stunning loss to Canada in October is now merely a footnote.
The U.S. wanted to get off to a fast start against Cuba … and scored after 34 seconds! Paul Arriola sent a cross toward the Cuban goal and a confused tangle saw striker Josh Sargent tap the ball and it rolled past keeper Sandy Sanchez for a 1-0 lead.
Jordan Morris got the second goal in the 26th minute, finding himself all alone in front of Sanchez after a cross was deflected. A deke to the right and then Morris sent a strike into the far corner of the net.
Morris scored the third goal as Aaron Long’s arching shot went over Sanchez’s head and was headed for the back of the net, but Morris made sure with a tap-in in the 39th minute. For the half, the U.S. had 75% of the possession and a 13-2 edge in shots.
The second half was lackluster and while the Cubans manufactured a couple of chances, Sargent had the only goal. In the 66th minute, a Reggie Cannon cross from the right side looked like it was going out of bounds, but a backheel flip by Tyler Boyd sent the ball back to Sargent, who buried it for his second of the night.
Having won Group A, the U.S. advances to the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals next June, to play Honduras, while Mexico will play Costa Rica.