WASHINGTON — Let’s start by stating the obvious: Cuba is not very good.
That much was abundantly clear from the off Friday night at Audi Field. The U.S. was up a goal within the game’s first 30 seconds and from then on it did not get much more difficult.
The USMNT would win its CONCACAF Nations League opener 7-0 and, in truth, it’s not a game from which Gregg Berhalter’s side will learn much on the field.
But while there won’t be a lot of tactical or personnel lessons to be drawn from Friday night’s game, the U.S. did manage to stop a three-game winless run and restore a bit of the feel-good factor ahead of a much tougher challenge at Canada on Tuesday.
For a program that appears to have stagnated over the last few years, any win this lopsided will at least provide a platform upon which to build. And with a tricky-looking fixture in Toronto to come Friday’s result will be welcomed — no matter the opponent.
“From the start of the game you see the focus in the players, the intensity in the players and it was good to see,” Berhalter said.
“I think we maintained that focus and intensity for the entire first half. Overall I think it was a worthwhile game for us to continue to grow.”
Weston McKennie and Jordan Morris were the stars of an overwhelmingly one-sided first half in which the USMNT put six past the Cubans.
Morris had free rein down the right side of the U.S. attack and tied the program record for assists in a game within the game’s first 45 minutes, laying on three for his teammates.
“Something that’s been stressed is getting behind the opposing back line and trying to creating opportunities,” Morris said. “It’s a continued process and it’s part of the system we’re playing.”
McKennie, meanwhile, cut through the center of the Cuban defense with consummate ease, scoring his first two goals in nearly identical fashion before completing his hat trick in just the 13th minute for the fastest treble in USMNT history.
Though even more program records were in sight, both players were subbed off at halftime with one eye on Tuesday’s game at BMO Field.
But by then they had done more than enough during their time on the pitch, providing the USMNT with something to build on after another rough patch under Berhalter.
The USMNT was outplayed in the Gold Cup final in July, losing 1-0 to Mexico before it was even more comprehensively beaten by El Tri 3-0 in a friendly last month.
Friday was a step in the right direction, but the real test of the team’s progress under Berhalter will come in four days.
“These are the games that are going to help our team grow,” Berhalter said of the game in Toronto. “We’re really looking forward to a game like this because we’re going to learn a lot about our group. It’s going to be a difficult environment to play in and it’s going to be a very motivated opponent.
“Everything lines up for us to really test ourselves against Canada.”