Clint Dempsey has been firing throughout the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, but Cuba felt the full force of the United States men’s national soccer team when things finally clicked around him.

The U.S. beat Cuba 6-0 on Saturday in a Gold Cup quarterfinal game between a tournament favorite and a sacrificial lamb of the Caribbean. Dempsey, 32, scored his first hat trick for Team USA, and up-and-comers Gyasi Zardes, Aron Johannsson and Omar Gonzalez rounded out the scoring in a one-sided contest.

Dempsey took his Gold Cup goal tally to a tournament-best six in four games. Dempsey said last week he’s not playing with added motivation, having been stripped of the U.S. captaincy ahead of the tournament, but it’s undeniable he’s in some of the best form of his storied international career.

Dempsey’s historic day mirrored that of the team he first represented in 2004. The United States performed below expectations in its first three games at the 2015 Gold Cup, but it spectacularly broke out of its funk against Cuba. Dempsey scored after four minutes, and there was no looking back for Team USA, which scored four goals before halftime en route to a victory for the ages.

Let’s face it: The United States has better players than Cuba at every position and would win any game in which it performed at or near its average level. Team USA profited from four days’ rest, while Cuba suffered under the added weights of just two days’ rest and continued problems with injuries to some players and the apparent defections of others.

Dempsey stayed hot. Michael Bradley and Brad Guzan remained present and steady, as they have done throughout the tournament. The other Americans were hungry to advance their international careers by winning silverware this summer. They came up against a weakened Cuba, which already was overmatched. The teams then encountered 95-degree (35 degrees Celsius) heat in Baltimore at kickoff time. Open and shut case.

Here’s another important thing we learned in USA-Cuba:

Wanted striker found

We wrote in our wrap of Team USA’s previous game — a 1-1 draw against Panama — head coach Jurgen Klinsmann was longing for a striker to produce the goods alongside Dempsey. Step forward Johannsson.

The 24-year-old striker’s first-half wonder-goal was just one standout moment in a game in which he impressed with his all-around play. Johannsson worked hard defensively, closing down Cuban defenders whenever possible. Johannsson’s work rate, off-the-ball movement and passing troubled Cuba’s defense for 90 minutes. Johannson assisted on Gonzalez’s goal and won the penalty kick that led to Dempsey’s second. His performance against Cuba probably earned him a spot in the starting lineup for Wednesday’s semifinal, and that goal will be a keepsake in the hearts of Team USA’s fans.

Johannsson scores beauty in USA-Cuba (video) >>

Review our USA-Cuba live blog >>

Thumbnail photo via Patrick Semansky/The Associated Press