It was far from perfect, but tonight’s 1-0 win over Haiti was enough to clinch Gold Cup Group A and send Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad into the knockout rounds with a game to spare.
As has been the case in recent games between the nations across various age groups, Haiti were anything but awed by the U.S., giving the favorites all they could handle.
The U.S. were very sloppy in the early going with giveaways a problem on the substandard Gillette Stadium pitch. Sod had been laid on top of the stadium’s artificial turf field and players on both sides had trouble with their footing.
The turf though could hardly be blamed for Mix Diskerud’s ninth minute turnover, a mistake the NYCFC man compounded by fouling James Marcelin in a dangerous area.
Haiti’s Mechack Jerome very nearly made the U.S. pay with a lovely free kick that struck the crossbar with Brad Guzan helpless.
Haiti was taking advantage of a U.S. lineup that featured a glut of attackers and not much in the way of defensive help for the back four from the midfield. The lineup was presented as a 4-3-1-2, with Clint Dempsey playing just behind Jozy Altidore and Haitian-American Jozy Altidore.
Both of Altidore’s parents are Haitian and the U.S. striker understandably hoped for a big effort against his ancestral home. It wasn’t on the cards though and an ineffective Altidore was taken off at the break.
Altidore was replaced by Gyasi Zardes and the L.A. Galaxy attacker made an immediate impact as he continues to press for national team minutes.
The U.S. had finished the first half strongly after Haiti had arguably had the better of things in the first 30 minutes. Haiti had good performances from Marcelin, Duckens Nazon and in particular Donald Guerrier.
Right from the re-start Duckens slipped a failed U.S. offside trap and faced Brad Guzan 1v1. Guzan stood strong and a minute later Zardes set up Dempsey for the games only goal.
Zardes skipped past the Haiti defense and teed up Dempsey who scored for the third time in two matches, the only U.S. goalscorer in the Gold Cup so far.
That left the home team with almost the entire half to hold, or improve upon a 1-0 lead. The Americans held on, but it was far from easy. Guzan made a couple a solid saves, center backs Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream, in his first national team start in years, held firm.
Brad Evans was solid at one fullback spot, and Klinsmann settled the other side when he replaced Greg Garza with Fabian Johnson. Garza had been repeatedly victimized by Guerrier before Klinsmann made the switch in the 67th minute, a switch that shut down Guerrier immediately.
Playing a theoretically weaker opponent, Klinsmann gave some players a chance to impress, with mixed results. The center backs helped their cases as did Evans, while it was a bad night for Garza.
Aron Johannsson showed well, Zardes sparkled, Graham Zusi bounced back from a poor 45 minutes against Guatemala and Kyle Beckerman did what he was asked in a late cameo.
New captain Michael Bradley didn’t have his best game, in fact the midfield was in danger of being overrun at times. The same could be said of Mix Diskerud.
If we need a reminder that tournaments are marathons and not sprints, we need only look to the U.S. team that was honored with a parade through New York City’s Canyon of Heroes earlier on Friday, the U.S. Women’s National Team.
Like the women’s team the men failed to impress while winning its group. Jill Ellis made adjustments and her team improved as the Women’s World Cup went on. No ticker tape parade awaits the winner of the Gold Cup, but if Klinsmann can repeat Ellis’ formula a trip to the Confederations Cup in Russia in 2017 would be a decent substitute.
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 1 1
HAI 0 0 0
USA – Clint Dempsey (Gyasi Zardes) 47th minute
USA: 1-Brad Guzan; 16-Brad Evans, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 15-Tim Ream, 14-Greg Garza (23-Fabian Johnson, 67); 19-Graham Zusi, 4-Michael Bradley (capt.), 10-Mix Diskerud, 8-Clint Dempsey, 9-Aron Johannsson (5-Kyle Beckerman, 83), 17-Jozy Altidore (20-Gyasi Zardes, 46)
Subs Not Used: 12-Nick Rimando, 22-William Yarbrough; 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 6-John Brooks,7-Alfredo Morales,11-Alejandro Bedoya, 13-Ventura Alvarado,18-Chris Wondolowski, 21-Timmy Chandler
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
HAI: 1-Johny Sony Placide (capt.); 8-Reginal Goreux (22-Sony Norde, 83), 3- Mechack Jerome, 6-Frantz Bertin, 4-Kim Jaggy; 13-Kevin Lafrance, 16-Jean Marc Alexandre (15-Sebastian Thuriere, 71), 21-Jean Eudes Maurice (10-Jeff Louis, 67), 14-James Marcelin, 7-Wilde Donald Guerrier; 20-Duckens Nazon,
Subs Not Used: 2-Jean Sony Alcenat, 5-Jean Jacques Pierre, 9-Kervens Belfort, 11-Pascal Millien, 12-Steward Ceus, 17-Andrew Jean-Baptiste, 18-Judelin Aveska, 19-Bitielo Jean Jacques, 23-Ronald Elusma
Head coach: Marc Collat
Stats Summary: USA / HAI
Shots: 6 / 15
Shots on Goal: 2 / 4
Saves: 4 / 1
Corner Kicks: 3 / 3
Fouls: 13 / 14
Offside: 4 / 4
HAI – Jean Marc Alexandre (caution) 23rd minute
HAI – Wilde Donald Guerrier (caution) 34
HAI – Duckens Nazon (caution) 62