United States forward Juan Agudelo celebrates following his goal on...

United States forward Juan Agudelo celebrates following his goal on a corner kick in the first half of an under-23 international friendly soccer match at FC Dallas Stadium. (Feb. 29, 2012) Credit: AP

NASHVILLE -- Having great potential and expectations is one thing. Living up to it is another.

The U.S. Under-23 National Team did so and then some last night. Helped by a first-half red card, the Americans rolled to a 6-0 victory past over-matched Cuba in their first match of the CONCACAF Olympic soccer qualifying tournament at LP Field.

Joe Corona led the way with his first U.S. national team hat trick. Juan Agudelo of the Red Bulls and Freddy Adu contributed one apiece and the Cubans added an own goal as the Americans took command of Group A.

In the opening game of the doubleheader, Canada and El Salvador played to a scoreless draw. The U.S. can virtually secure a spot in the semifinals with a win over Canada Saturdaynight.

"We've got players from all over the world," Corona said. "Everyone gives it their taste of soccer. That's very important for us because we read each other and Caleb likes that."

But Porter did not like everything he saw. He felt the U.S. allowed Cuba too many counterattacks, especially in the early going.

"It was a good start, but we need to be better," Portor said. "I don't have to harp on that. The guys have high standards. It was pretty special, but it needs to be more."

While he did not get into the scoring column, FC Dallas midfielder Brek Shea gave Cuba fits on both wings as he had a hand in two goals before he was replaced by Joe Gyau in the 57th minute.

A 45-yard free kick by Adu set up Corona's first goal in the 10th minute. Goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper came out for the ball. But Agudelo got to it first and headed it back to Corona, who chested it down and fired a shot into the lower right corner.

"I have a lot of freedom," Corona said, adding that Porter "gives me that liberty to be free. I think that's something that helps me a lot because I am that type of player."

The game tipped toward the U.S. in the 20th minute when Cuban defender Dario Macias received a straight red card from referee Roberto Garcia (Mexico) for slapping and then elbowing Agudelo in the face.

"I didn't get overconfident," Corona said. "I felt like we had to keep working. They suffered a lot. After that red card, the team just went down. It was mostly us dictating the game."

Agudelo made sure the Cubans suffered, heading home a Shea left-wing cross in the 37th minute.

That goal seemed to break the Cubans. Mix Diskerud set up Corona for his second goal, from 12 yards three minutes later. Shea tried to find Agudelo in front of the net again, but defender Arturo Diz Pe knocked the ball into his own net for a four-goal advantage in the 43rd minute.

Adu made it 5-0 with a spectacular 25-yard blast in the 63rd minute before Corona completed his hat trick in the 88th minute.

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