Joe Corona's hat trick leads U.S. rout

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The United States looks more than capable of finding the net in coach Caleb Porter's aggressive offense.

Joe Corona got the Olympic qualifying tournament started with three goals and the United States beat Cuba 6-0 Thursday night in the Americans' opening game of the Group A round-robin tournament. Juan Agudelo and Freddy Adu also had a goal apiece, and the U.S. Under-23 team also got an own goal from Cuba to lead 4-0 halftime.

"I'm happy, pleased we got the result," Porter said. "It's a good start, but we need to be better. So I think that'll be the message, and the nice thing is I don't even need to harp on that because they know it. These guys have very high standards. They know what they're capable of. I've seen it. ... You saw it for some periods today."

Porter wants his team attacking and staying on the offense, and the U.S. had a 17-4 edge on goal attempts and 7-1 on shots. He said the Americans moved the ball quickly and put together some combinations, accelerating at the right times. The result was the U.S. Under-23 team's biggest margin of victory since beating Panama 7-0 on July 20, 1991.

"It was pretty special, but it needs to be more," Porter said.

The Americans will play Canada on Saturday night in the second of three games in the Group A round-robin tournament at LP Field, home of the NFL's Tennessee Titans.

El Salvador and Canada tied 0-0 in the first game Thursday night. The top two teams advance to the semifinal March 31 in Kansas City, Kan. The semifinal winners will represent North America, Central America and the Caribbean at the London Olympics.

"We were kind of shaky at first," midfielder Brek Shea said. "But that's expected in the first game, and I think the team kind of turned it on and we played well."

The Americans got one early -- in the 11th minute after missing on three corner kicks just before. Adu had a free kick into the area, and Odisnel Cooper came out for Cuba, helping knock it in the air. Corona used his chest to deflect the ball and right-footed it in from 11 yards out.

Corona said he has a lot of freedom in his position and credits Porter.

"That's one of the things he expresses to me a lot," Corona said. "He gives me that liberty to be free on the ball, and I think that's something that helps me a lot, because I feel I'm that type of player. And I feel good."

Cuba's Dairo Macias was sent off in the 19th minute after his right elbow caught Agudelo in the mouth, dropping the American to the turf. He will miss Cuba's game Saturday against El Salvador, and Cuba coach Raul Triana Gonzalez said losing Macias hurt too much.

"I think that at the first 20 minutes we had the game pretty even," Gonzalez said through a translator. "We were playing head to head with the U.S. After that, it just went down."

Corona said the Americans felt confident after the red card.

"We had to keep working," Corona said. "They suffered a lot after that red card, the team just went down, they didn't want to do anything anymore. It was mostly us dictating the game and scoring more goals."

The Americans had plenty of chances in the first half in what the Cuban coach called their "vertical game." Shea passed up a shot, passing instead to a teammate, who sent it wide. Corona missed on a header off a cross from Adu.

They didn't miss when Shea found Agudelo open from point-blank range for a header past Cooper in the 37th minute, and Corona made it 3-0 in the 40th off a volley from Mix Diskerud from 12 yards out. Shea tried to find Agudelo again in front of the net, but his pass went off Arturo Diz Pe for an own goal in the 43rd minute putting the U.S. up 4-0.

Corona added his third of the game in the 88th minute, kicking it past the keeper into the left corner of the goal.

In the second half, the Americans seemed to ease up a bit as Agudelo and Shea went to the bench early. They still managed to add a couple more goals even with plenty of passing.

Adu just missed over the crossbar on a kick in the second half, but he scored his fifth career goal in the 62nd minute off his left foot from 25 yards out. It was his second career goal against Cuba, coming in his first game as captain for the Americans.

"As soon as it left my foot, I was like, 'goal,'" Adu said. "I just hit that clean, as clean as you can hit it. Luckily it was on target and also to the corner. I would say it was definitely one of the best goals I've personally scored."