USMNT 6-0 Cuba: The U.S. Smokes Cuba / by Jared Young

By Jared Young (@jaredeyoung)

On Saturday the U.S.A. cruised to a 6-0 victory over Cuba in the Gold Cup quarterfinals and advanced to play Jamaica in the semifinals. When a country with the population and the financial resources of the U.S. pounds on a country whose players are much more intrigued with the idea of leaving the team, it’s hard to get too excited about the victory. It’s an even harder match to break down statistically. How do you analyze a drubbing? Let’s just all feel good, right? Believe it or not I’ve found some statistics that will sober you right up.

First let’s take a look inside a dominant performance. What does that look like? Here’s a look at the game funnel which looks at completed passes, possession, shots and shot quality in a comparative chart. The lines that are drawn represent how many of each statistic would be expected by an average team given the actual result of the immediate variable above it. For example, a team that completes 547 passes would normally have the ball for 58 minutes of the game (represented by the dot on the left). In this case the U.S. slightly underperformed.

Where the U.S. really outperformed the expectation was in both shots in the box and finishing. An average team that takes 17 shots would take 8.9 of those shots in the box. The U.S. managed 13 shots in the box and finished 6 of them. Their expected goals was 2.7. It was clearly a dominant performance across the board for the U.S. 

But those with sharp memories might recall a team nicknamed El Tri also beat Cuba by a score of 6-0. There’s a greater than zero chance that the U.S. might face Mexico in the Gold Cup Final. Perhaps there’s a little something we can learn from looking at both games side by side. Here’s the tale of the tape from the two performances.

USMNTDif. v CubaMexicoDif. v Cuba
Passes Attempted 608 235 716 496
Completion Percentage 0.9 0.04 0.91 0.25
Possession 0.62 0.24 0.76 0.53
Passes Attempted in Final Third 142 50 274 228
Shots 17 8 44 41
Shots in the Box 13 10 32 31
Shots on Target 8 7 18 17

As you can see the Mexican performance was a far more dominant performance than the U.S.A’s. Does that matter? Probably not much, but it is a little sobering.

Next up for the U.S. is Jamaica, who has played exceptional defense during the tournament, pitching three straight shutouts. The Reggae Boyz bunkered in against Haiti, in a surprise move, showing their respect for the aggressive Haitian side. The tactic worked well as an early goal for Jamaica held up for a 1-0 win. Perhaps Jamaica will decide to play the same way against the U.S. If that’s the case, the U.S. will put together a game funnel much like they did against Cuba but there will be much fewer chances. As long as the U.S. respect the Jamaican counterattack they should be able to get past them and into the final.