The United States crushed Cuba, 6-0, so things have to be looking up for the Americans. Every 6-0 win is a good one and no team wins by six goals if it didn’t play well. All of that is true. But it’s also true that the U.S. learned absolutely nothing from the match.
To say that Cuba is a bad team would be an understatement. With just three points and outscored 8-1, Cuba made to the knockout stages of the Gold Cup entirely on good fortune, a bit of fortitude and, more than anything, CONCACAF being terrible. It then left with a -13 goal difference. Cuba is abysmal and, with five defections, only got worse as the tournament went on. It’s terrible, and unfortunate, and also reality.
So yes, the U.S. looked good. Clint Dempsey scored a hat trick, three other players put one in and Brad Guzan was never really tested. The U.S. probably did nearly everything that Jurgen Klinsmann wanted his team to do, but that doesn’t mean the U.S. is much better off today than the team was yesterday.
The U.S. defense still often falters when challenged. It just so happened that Cuba never challenged the back line.
Gyasi Zardes can struggle in tight spaces. It just so happened that Cuba never closed down space.
The midfield gives the ball away too often when out-numbered through the center of the pitch. It just so happened that Cuba dropped so many men behind the ball and played so deep that there was no midfield to combat the U.S.
American forwards not named Clint Dempsey have problems creating chances against good teams. It just so happened that Cuba is not a good team.
In no way did this match show that the U.S. has improved or sorted out any of the problems plaguing the team during this tournament. Such is the nature of playing a team so overmatched like Cuba. The U.S. can’t really say that this match will boost confidence or provide momentum, either. After all, Mexico beat Cuba 6-0 as well in their Gold Cup opener and proceeded to draw its next two matches.
Despite it all, the U.S. is still the favorite to win the Gold Cup. While it got out of the group stage with a sloppy seven points, that’s still seven points and won the team the toughest group in the tournament. Meanwhile, Mexico and Costa Rica slumped to second place in their groups and have to play each other in the quarterfinals, so one of the Americans’ top challengers will be out of the tournament this weekend. Dempsey is rolling, scoring six goals in the tournament so far for a new Gold Cup record. All in all, the U.S. is sitting pretty.
But it doesn’t have anything to do with the way the Americans beat Cuba because that was all but meaningless.
The U.S. is feeling good. As they should. Just like it should have been feeling good before a nothing match against an overmatched Cuba that told us, and the team, nothing..