WASHINGTON -- DaMarcus Beasley scored his first international goals in 16 months, Landon Donovan added his record 37th goal for the United States and the Americans breezed past Cuba into the final round of World Cup qualifying with unusual ease.
"It's never easy," Donovan insisted after a 6-1 rout Saturday.
But relatively speaking, it was.
After Beasley scored the first two goals, Donovan and Brian Ching padded the lead early in the second. Jozy Altidore and Oguchi Onyewu added goals in garbage time.
With two semifinal-round matches remaining, the Americans (4-0) already have secured a berth in next year's six-nation finals of the North and Central American and Caribbean region. The top three teams in the finals qualify for the 2010 World Cup, and the No. 4 nation goes to a playoff against the fifth-place team in South America for another berth.
After winning 1-0 at Guatemala and Cuba, the United States won 3-0 against Trinidad and Tobago at home heading into this match.
"The bulk of the work was done in the first two games, and that was difficult," Donovan said. "We are, I think, better equipped with the way we play on a consistent basis."
Ranked 21st in the world, the United States is seeking its sixth straight appearance in soccer's showcase event. The Americans, who won 1-0 at Cuba last month, were playing a nation ranked that hasn't been to the World Cup since 1938 and is ranked just 98th. And the advantage only increased when Cuba's Yoel Colome was ejected in the 42nd minute for cutting down Donovan, a foul that got him his second yellow card.
Cuba coach Reinhold Franz said his team "dropped like a doll" after the ejection.
Even Cuba's bench was depleted. The Cubans (0-4) dressed only five substitutes after Pedro Faife and forward Reynier Alcantara went missing Friday, a sign that they may be defecting.
While the United States is far from a world power, the Americans have become the region's dominant team: They are 26-1-7 in home qualifiers since May 1985, the only defeat 3-2 to Honduras here at RFK Stadium in September 2001.
Before a small but boisterous pro-U.S. crowd of 20,293 that sang throughout, Beasley put the United States ahead in the 10th minute with an angled shot from about 12 yards. Sacha Kljestan had picked up a loose ball following a header and passed to the left flank, where Beasley gave the ball one touch before beating goalkeeper Silvio Minoso to the far post.
Beasley, still not completely recovered from a knee injury last fall, doubled the lead in the 30th, making a perfectly timed run to receive a Donovan pass behind the defense and score from 8 yards.
"It's been a long time coming," he said. "Every attacking player goes through these stretches."
At that point, the United States had scored 23 consecutive goals against opponents in qualifiers on U.S. soil since November 2004 and hadn't allowed a goal at home during the run of play in qualifying since October 2001. But Cuba stunned the Americans two minutes later, when Jenzy Munoz caught goalkeeper Tim Howard slightly off his line and from outside the area put the ball just under the crossbar.
"It was weird the way it got up and down so quickly," Howard said.
Playing the ball wide and spreading Cuba out, the United States had plenty of opportunities it failed to convert. Donovan restored a two-goal lead in the 48th. Ching played the ball wide to Heath Pearce, whose cross was knocked into the net by Donovan from 3 yards.
Beasley had a chance for his third in the 60th when Ching fed him for an open point-blank shot, but Minoso blocked it. Three minutes later, Beasley sent a bending free kick to the far post, when Kljestan headed the ball back toward the goal for Ching to knock in.
Jose Francisco Torres made his U.S. national team debut when he entered in the 68th minute along with Altidore. Torres, a 20-year-old midfielder with Pachuca, was born in Texas to an American mother and a Mexican father. By appearing for the United States, he no longer is eligible to play for Mexico's national team.
"Once the game opened up a little, it became a little easier," Donovan said.
Notes: Michael Bradley got a yellow card in injury time and is suspended for Wednesday's qualifier at Trinidad. ... Altidore muscled his way past defender Carlos Domingo in the 87th to score his second goal in four international appearances. Onyewu scored in the 90th.