Joe Corona's hat trick led the United States' under-23 national team sprinted to an easy victory in its opener in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament, and Canada held on for a draw with El Salvador in the other Group A game.
Keeping tabs on the road to London:
Corona, who chose to play for the U.S. after attending a camp with Mexico's pre-Olympic team, scored three goals as the Americans grabbed a four-goal lead by halftime en route to a 6-0 rout of Cuba in Nashville.
Corona, who was born in Los Angeles, raised in San Diego and plays for Club Tijuana in Mexico's Primera Division, tallied in the 11th (volley after a chest trap), 40th (one-time finish inside the right post) and 88th (inside the left post after two 1-2s with Mix Diskerud) to send the U.S. atop Group A.
New York Red Bulls forward Juan Agudelo, with a can't-miss header, and Philadelphia Union midfielder Freddy Adu, with a forceful blast, also scored goals, and FC Dallas winger Brek Shea was a force on the left flank, setting up the second and third strikes for the U.S.
Cuba played with 10 men after Mexican referee Roberto Garcia in the 20th minute sent off Dario Macias for an elbow into Agudelo's face, a harsh decision.
Canada claimed a share of the points with a 0-0 draw against the Salvadorans in the tournament opener, all thanks to Michal Misiewicz. The goalkeeper made difficult stops when Isidro Gutierrez had an open look in the 12th minute and Andres Flores eight minutes later. The Canadians kept quiet star striker Lester Blanco, the top scorer for Salvadoran powerhouse Isidro Metapan.
Cucatlecos forward Jonathan Aguila was hurt in stoppage, and head coach Mauricio Alfaro said it likely was ligament damage that will end his tournament.
Group B opens in Carson, with Mexico looking to make amends for 2008's failure to qualify behind a deep, experienced group. Honduras and Panama face off in the 6 p.m. opener, and the result could determine one of the semifinal berths.
The U.S. will clinch an expected berth in the all-important semifinals with a victory Saturday over Canada. The semifinal winners join the 16-nation field at the London Games.
Galaxy midfielder Michael Stephens and Chivas USA defender Jorge Villafaña (Anaheim/Anaheim HS) did not make it off the bench for the U.S. Former UCLA midfielder Amobi Okugo, who plays for Philadelphia, was a second-half substitute for Jared Jeffrey.
Panorama City's Richard Menjivar (Monroe HS) went the full 90 for El Salvador.
GROUP A (Nashville, Tenn.)
1. United States 1-0-0 (6-0 GF-GA) 3 points
2. Canada 0-0-1 (0-0) 1 point
2. El Salvador 0-0-1 (0-0) 1 point
4. Cuba 0-1-0 (0-6) 0 points
Canada 0, El Salvador 0
United States 4 (Corona 11, 40, 88, Agudelo 37, og Diz Pe 43, Adu 62), Cuba 0
Cuba vs. El Salvador, 1:30 p.m. (Telemundo)
United States vs. Canada, 4 p.m. (Universal Sports/Mun2)
Canada vs. Cuba, 3:30 p.m. (Mun2)
United States vs. El Salvador, 6 p.m. (Universal Sports/Mun2)
GROUP B (Home Depot Center)
Honduras vs. Panama, 6 p.m. (Mun2)
Mexico vs. Trinidad & Tobago, 8:30 p.m. (Telemundo)
Panama vs. Trinidad & Tobago, 1:30 p.m. (Telemundo)
Mexico vs. Honduras, 4 p.m. (Telemundo)
Honduras vs. Trinidad & Tobago, 6 p.m. (Mun2)
Mexico vs. Panama, 8:30 p.m. (Telemundo)
FINAL FOUR (Kansas City, Kan.)
Saturday, March 31
B1 vs. A2, 3 p.m.
A1 vs. B2, 6 p.m.
Monday, April 2
Final, 5 p.m.
All times Pacific