Dempsey powers U.S. past Cuba, into semifinals

Clint Dempsey (pictured) scored three goals in the USA's CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal win over Cuba on July 18, 2015, in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo: Mexsport)

BALTIMORE, Maryland -- Clint Dempsey netted a hat-trick to lead the United States into its eighth straight CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals following a 6-0 victory over Cuba on Saturday afternoon.

The Seattle Sounders star took over the tournament lead in scoring with six goals as the defending champion made it six victories in six Gold Cup matches against Cuba.

Aron Johannsson, Gyasi Zardes and Omar Gonzalez also each scored their first goals of the tournament for the Americans.

Cuba departs at the quarterfinals for a second straight tournament after failing to reach the elimination rounds in 2005, 2007 and 2011. The Leones del Caribe fell by an identical 6-0 scoreline in its first Group C match against Mexico on July 9, also yielding three goals that day to Oribe Peralta.

With his six goals, Dempsey set a new U.S. scoring record for a single Gold Cup tournament, surpassing the five notched by Landon Donovan and Chris Wondolowski in 2013.

The 32-year-old opened the scoring in the fourth minute, when he got behind Cuba’s back line to head in Timmy Chandler’s early cross from just outside the six-yard box.

Zardes doubled the USA’s lead 11 minutes later, reaching Fabian Johnson’s cross from beyond the left corner of the penalty area and sent in a right-footed finish from five yards.

Johannsson made it 3-0 in the 32nd minute. The AZ Alkmaar standout raced to Michael Bradley’s high-arching pass from his own half of the field, turned at the edge of the penalty area and then chipped his finish over goalkeeper Diosvelis Guerra.

Then, in the 45th minute, Gonzalez scored his first international goal off a Johannsson assist, sliding home a right-footed finish.

Dempsey’s penalty made it 5-0 in the 64th minute, before he added a third goal set-up by Bradley’s square pass.