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USA moves closer to South Africa 2010
by Ridge Mahoney, October 13th, 2008 7AM

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In the case of a U.S. military operation a few years ago, a proclamation of "Mission Accomplished" turned out to be drastically premature; for the U.S. national team, its mission of qualifying for the Hexagonal is done with two games to spare. The Americans dismantled a game Cuba team, 6-1, at RFK Stadium Saturday with a pair of DaMarcus Beasley goals and single scores apiece from four players. Atop Group A with a 4-0-0 record, the USA. is assured of a place in the six-team Hexagonal final round from which the Concacaf 2010 World Cup participants will emerge.

Beasley scored twice in the opening half hour for a 2-0 lead, and in the second half, with Cuba down by only a goal at 2-1 but also down to 10 men, the USA blew open the game on goals by Landon Donovan and Brian Ching 15 minutes apart. Late scores by Jozy Altidore and Oguchi Onyewu finished off the rout.

"I think the fact that we had a man up helped," said U.S. coach Bob Bradley. "We found a good mix of playing centrally and out wide. But when you are a man up when the other team is starting to get tired, that is when want to make them pay. That's the part we talked about at halftime."

Cuba lost any chance of gaining a result when referee Roberto Salazar sent off Yoel Colome for his second yellow card after he hacked down Donovan four minutes before halftime. Jenzy Munoz had drilled a shot over Tim Howard and just under the crossbar in the 32nd minute to cut the U.S. lead in half, but Donovan scored less than three minutes into the second half to restore the two-goal edge and the Americans throttled Cuba the rest of the way.

Clint Dempsey and Beasley attacked from the flanks in the first half as Donovan's runs, Sacha Kljestan's touches, and Ching's movement stretched Cuba's defense out of shape and in particular, completely overran its right side. Beasley and Dempsey shifted inside as the match wore on, leaving space for outside backs Heath Pearce and Steve Cherundolo to join the attacks.

Donovan turned a low cross from Pearce, who'd snuck up the left flank, into the net for his goal, and Oneywu crashed home a header in the final minute from a fine cross by substitute Freddy Adu, again from the left side. Altidore, who came on for Ching in the 68th minute, squandered one chance when keeper Odelin Molina stopped him one-v-one, but in the 87th minute Altidore ran onto a Dempsey feed and stuck it into the net.

Ching's strong performance earned him a deserved goal five minutes before Altidore replaced him. Kljestan drifted to the far post to reach a free kick from Beasley and nodded it across the goalmouth where a charging Ching, just ahead of Bocanegra and Dempsey as well as the last defender, nudged it over the goal line.

Beasley, who hadn't scored for the USA in more than a year, led a pressuring attack that pushed Cuba back into his own half from the first minute. In the 10th minute, Kljestan swept up a loose ball and played it into space for Beasley on the left and he drilled it left-footed inside the far post.

For his second goal 20 minutes later, Beasley again drifted behind the Cuban back line, this time to chest down a cross from Donovan. Molina charged out and lunged at him, but Beasley quickly slapped a right-footed volley under the keeper and into the net.

"The first one, Sacha collected a ball in the midfield and played it into my path," said Beasley. "The only thing I thought of was to shoot far post and that's what happened. To get the first goal was great, because that's the most difficult one.

"The second one, the defender just got caught ball watching. Landon saw me, and we know each other, and he played me a great ball. I looked at the keeper and he didn't come out, and I had time to chest it and shoot it."

Beasley nearly scored a third in the second half but Molina charged out to block the shot. The Cuban keeper also turned away a fierce header from Dempsey and pushed a rising Michael Bradley shot over the crossbar as the relentless U.S. attack piled up an 18-4 edge in shots.

Jose Francisco Torres, a native of Longview, Texas with Mexican heritage, declined inquiries from Mexico to attend the U.S. training camp for this match, and earned his first U.S. cap in the 68th minute as a sub for Pearce. Torres had not previously played for a U.S. team at any age level.

The Americans play Trinidad & Tobago Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN, Galavision) in Port of Spain. Coach Bob Bradley released nine players and brought in several additions to make up his18-man roster.

GAME SUMMARY
Oct. 11 in Washington, D.C.
USA 6 Cuba 1.
Goals: Beasley (Kljestan) 10, Beasley (Donovan) 30, Donovan (Pearce) 48, Ching (Kljestan) 63, Altidore (Dempsey) 87, Onyewu (Adu) 90; Munoz 32.
USA - Howard, Cherundolo, Onyewu, Bocanegra, Pearce (Torres, 68), Bradley, Kljestan (Adu, 76), Dempsey, Donovan, Ching (Altidore, 68).
Cuba -- Molina, Y.Colome, Fernandez, Marquez, Minoso, J.Colome (Urgelles, 72), Clavelo, Villegas (Domingo, 46), Cervantes, Munoz (Ruiz, 80), Duarte

Stats: USA/CUBA
Shots: 18/4
Shots on Goal: 13/2
Saves: 1/6
Corner Kicks: 9/1
Fouls: 11/9
Offside: 3/3

Yellow cards: USA - Bradley 90+; Cuba -- Y.Colome 21, Y.Colome 41, Fernández 62.
Red card: Cuba -- Y.Colome 41.
Referee: Roberto Moreno Salazar (PAN).
Att: 20,293.



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