US men trounce Cuba in opening of Nations League soccer tournament

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WASHINGTON — Weston McKennie got the U.S. off to a record-setting start against Cuba in the Americans’ CONCACAF Nations League debut.

McKennie scored 32 seconds into the game and had the fastest hat trick from the kickoff in U.S. history, helping the Americans overwhelm Cuba 7-0 on Friday night.

“If I could have written the game up, it would have been exactly like this. Score early, score many goals early, and then cruise,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said. “That was important, so I think we saved ourselves. I think we’ll be fit, ready to go against Canada.”

Jordan Morris scored and tied a U.S. record with three assists and Josh Sargent also had a goal as the 21st-ranked Americans burst to a 6-0 halftime lead against No. 179 Cuba and set their modern record for goals in a half.

Christian Pulisic converted a penalty kick in the 62nd minute, nonchalantly putting his shot in the center of the net for his 14th international goal, then was expressionless. The U.S. women’s team was criticized by some for celebrating late goals during a 13-0 rout of Thailand at the World Cup in June.

The Nations League, a new tournament for teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean, has relatively low stakes but provides additional competitive matches, though former U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann called it “a waste of time” for regional powers to meet weaker nations. The next match, against 75th-ranked Canada at Toronto on Tuesday, is important for the hosts as they try to climb in the FIFA rankings and earn a spot in the hexagonal that will determine the three direct berths of the North and Central American and Caribbean region for the 2022 World Cup.

The U.S., which stopped three-game winless streak, finished one goal shy of its record for goals and victory margin. The Americans are 11-1-1 against Cuba, winning 11 straight matchups for their longest victory streak against an opponent.

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