Gold Cup

Gold Cup Recap: USA 1-0 Haiti

For the second straight match to open up group play in the 2015 Gold Cup, a lackluster United States side struggled to deal with the pace and energy of a counter-attacking opponent. But, also for the second time in as many matches, Clint Dempsey proved the difference, bagging his third goal of the tournament at the beginning of the second half, sending the US into the quarterfinals as the group winner, with Monday’s match against Panama to spare.

First half

Looking for players to prove they belong in the starting XI, as well as keeping an eye on the packed Gold Cup schedule, Jurgen Klinsmann made seven changes to the side that defeated Honduras, with only Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, and Brad Guzan keeping their starting spots.

It was a slow start from both sides, as both sets of players set about the task of figuring out the grass pitch, one that had been taken a beating in the opening match of Friday’s doubleheader, which finished Honduras 1-1 Panama .

Only 9 minutes after the opening whistle, Haiti nearly had a shock opener when Mix Diskerud conceded a dangerous free kick at the top of the US box after cheaply conceding possession in midfield. Former Sporting Kansas City defender Mechack Jerome stepped up to the set piece, and with Guzan scrambling across his goalmouth, clanked the free kick off the top of the crossbar.

It was a major let off for the United States, but they were unable to capitalize on the potential shift in momentum. With a narrow, attacker-heavy formation, the US found themselves well covered by the Haitian defense as they tried to march the ball through the heart of the pitch.

Donald Guerrier was the next to get a clean look at Guzan’s goal in the 21st minute. When Omar Gonzalez failed to win a 50-50 challenge, Haiti raced away, with the speedy winger picking up the ball on his right flank. Cutting in onto his left foot, Guerrier fizzed his drive just Guzan’s far post.

Just over the half-hour mark, the US finally found their first half chance when Bradley reacted quickly from a long set piece. Spying goalkeeper Johny Placide off his line, Bradley put his chipped attempt just over the bar.

Moment’s later Guerrier joined Jean-Marc Alexander in the referee’s notebook as the US finally grew into the match and began to win the midfield battle.

Pushing forward into the Haitian half, Aron Johannsson thought he had put the US into the lead in the 34th minute, only to have his goal incorrectly ruled out for offside. After Dempsey played Altidore in on the left, the striker hesitated, cutting the ball back onto his preferred foot and hooking a short cross into Johannsson. Taking it down cleanly off his chest, Johannsson finished calmly inside the far post, only to be denied by the linesman’s flag, although replays confirmed the US striker was comfortably onside. Lost in the play was Alexander’s violent midfield tackle on Diskerud. one that left the midfielder on the ground for some time. Had the referee, Ricardo Montero, blown for the foul, Alexander would have almost certainly been sent off. But after allowing play to continue, the young official failed to hand out a second yellow card retroactively.

As the half wore to a close, Altidore wrapped his foot around the ball sending it spinning over the bar following a bizarre series of events. After Dempsey was wrestled to the ground at the top of the box, players from both sides, clearly anticipating a foul, pulled up. When the referee failed to signal for as much as an advantage, the US quickly scrambled the ball to Altidore, who could not keep his shot on target.

Second half

After struggling through a first half in which both his touch and movement left much to be desired, Klinsmann sacrificed Altidore for the pace of Gyasi Zardes.

The move bore fruit almost immediately.

Peeling off and racing behind the defense in the 47th minute, Zardes did well to take his time in picking out Dempsey, whose first time blast left Johny Placide without a chance.

While the US continued to have sporadic bright moments in attack, their build up play was littered with simple, careless turnovers, which allowed Haiti more than a glimmer of hope of getting back into the game.

Guzan had to play the hero for the US in the 57th minute when Haiti again transitioned faster than the US and Guerrier had time and space to play Duckens Nazon in behind. Alone on Guzan, the Haitian striker was unable to get his shot away before the American keeper flew off his line, cutting off the angle and making the first save before regaining his feet and forcing Nazon to fire wide on the second effort.

With Haiti knocking on the door, Guerrier again was the next to come close after he got inside of Greg Garza only to power Kim Jaggy’s inch-perfect cross wide of the near post.

The US had a couple of chances to put the match to bed, with Dempsey, Zardes, and Johannsson all combining in the final third. But, the final ball was lacking as first Zardes cross flew just too close to the keeper, before Dempsey’s cutback cross proved too tall for Johannsson’s leaping bicycle attempt.

Nazon had another chance from close range to find an equalizer in the 80th minute after Sebastien Thuriere’s cross was deflected. But Tim Ream held his ground, putting his body on the line to block away Nazon’s blast.

Graham Zusi nearly had the Americans’ best chance to put Haiti’s hope out of reach when Zardes again got to the endline in the 87th minute. With bodies flying into the box for the US, Zardes picked out Zusi, but Frantz Bertin did just enough, sticking out a toe to keep the deficit at only a single goal.

With time winding down, Haiti took their final shots at the US backline. But after substitute Sony Norde’s 25-yard shot was comfortably held by Guzan, and Thuriere was unable to get position on Fabian Johnson for a last minute header, Haiti were forced to leave the contest empty handed.

Having won the group after two games, Klinsmann can again rotate his team to keep his players fresh for the first knockout round of the tournament.

US verdict

It wasn’t pretty. Again.

After 180 minutes of play, the US has yet to string together sustained periods of quality plat. Against Haiti, the Americans again found themselves against a well-drilled defensive side and had few answers, especially given Klinsmann’s personnel selections. Despite knowing that Haiti would sit deep and look to counter, Klinsmann failed to provide either the width or pace required to break down an obstinate opponent. Additionally, he gave the Haitians attacking credentials too little credit, leaving a wide open center of the park that became the breeding ground for quick, precise counter attacks. If Haiti, and Guerrier in particular, had been remotely accurate with a number of shots this could have been a very different game.

Some of that was down to the field

In a country as replete with first rate stadia as the United States, it is a continuing embarrassment for US Soccer that meaningful matches are being played on subpar surfaces. The added stress on the temporary grass surface of back-to-back games showed early and often. From seams, to missing patches, to varying densities, it took both teams far too long to adjust to the pitch (they were inexplicably never given a chance to train on it) and this clearly affected the quality of the match. Unlike European fixtures where the US relies on grit and athleticism to gut out results, in CONCACAF they are frequently the better skilled, more technical side. To continuously force their own team, let alone the rest of the region, to play on sub-standard surfaces should be shameful enough to keep it from happening again. Yet, it does. And, once again, the field is as big a talking point as the players slipping and tripping on top of it.

Zardes makes a big difference

He may be proven right, only time will tell. But it is awfully difficult to watch Klinsmann try and play Jozy Altidore back into fitness in the region’s most important tournament. If in a week’s time, Altidore is sharp and hungry in front of goal in the quarterfinals, Klinsmann can point to these slow, clumsy minutes as foundational to the forward’s return to top fitness and form.

However, it is hard to see that particular prediction coming to fruition after again watching Altidore look consistently off the pace. Not only was his touch heavy and awkward, his movement off the ball was also lacking. Even when he did get himself into a good scoring position, he opted not to shoot (though his cross to Johannsson should have been counted as an assist). With an essentially meaningless game against Panama on Monday, it will be interesting to see who Klinsmann chooses to lead the attacking line. After a lively and energetic showing against Haiti, Johannsson looks to be deserving of more minutes, just as Zardes clearly does. Will Klinsmann rest Dempsey and give the Johannsson-Zardes duo a chance to play together up top? We will soon find out.

Final thoughts

The eeriest of parallels between the US Mens’ National Team and the World Cup-winning US Women’s National Team is not the slow start to the tournament. What is most vexing to pundits and fans alike is that after two matches, the manager is still searching for the best formation and player combinations to get the most out of his/her team. For the women, it had been a case of easily (and sometimes not easily) running over minnows in the build up to the tournament. The lack of consistent resistance failed to give Jill Ellis an adequate test of what teams like Germany and Japan would look like in the later stages of the tournament. For Jurgen Klinsmann, the opposite has been true. Against the Netherlands and Germany, the US had to focus on defensive organization and making the most of relatively few chances. Now back in CONCACAF play where they are the aggressor, they have allowed themselves to become so stretched that a little more precision from either Honduras or Haiti could have seen results go a different way.

Ellis solved her problem. Morgan Brian came into the midfield in the quarterfinals and proved the exact boost the US needed, speeding up play and freeing up creative players to roam and create (not to mention finish) chances. Now it is Klinsmann’s turn to step up. Adjustments are needed to knit the backline together (Tim Ream looked pretty darn good), eliminate the spaces between the lines, and properly support the fullbacks, whether in defense or attack.

Unfortunately, as was the case with the women, we may have to wait until the likes of a Costa Rica or Mexico come around to see how Klinsmann and his team do when they meet top competition.

Until then, plenty of questions will rightfully be asked of this US team.

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), Mix Diskerud; 8-Clint Dempsey; 17-Jozy Altidore (20-Gyasi Zardes ’46), 9-Aron Johannsson (5-Kyle Beckerman ’83)
Subs Not Used: 12-Nick Rimando, 22-William Yarbrough; 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 6-John Brooks, 13-Ventura Alvarado, 21-Tim Chandler, 11-Alejandro Bedoya, 7-Alfredo Morales, 18-Chris Wondolowski
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

1-Johny Placide; 3-Mechak Jerome, 4-Kim Jaggy, 6-Frantz Bertin, 8-Reginal Goreux (22-Sony Norde ’83), 13-Kevin Lafrance (15-Sebastien Thuriere ’71); 7-Donald Guerrier, 14-James Marcelin, Jean-Marc Alexandre, Jean-Eude Maurice (10-Jeff Louis ’66); Duckens Nazon
Subs Not Used: 23-Ronald Elusma, 12-Stewart Ceus, 2-Jean Sony Alcenat, 5-Jean Jacques Pierre, 17-Andrew Jean-Baptiste, 18-Aveska Judelin, 19-Bitelo Jean Jacques, 11-Pascal Millien, 9-Kervens BelfortHead coach: Marc Collat

Scoring Summary
USA – Clint Dempsey (Gyasi Zardes, Greg Garza) – 47th minute

Stats Summary (USA / HAI)
Shots: 6 / 21
Shots on Goal: 2 / 4
Saves: 4 / 1
Corner Kicks: 3 / 3
Fouls: 14 / 14
Offside: 4 / 4

Misconduct Summary
HAI – Jean-Marc Alexandre (caution-foul) – 23rd minute
HAI – Wilde-Donald Guerrier (caution-foul) – 34th minute
HAI – Duckens Nazon (caution-dissent) – 62nd minute

Referee:  Ricardo Montero
Assistant Referee 1:  Warner Castro
Assistant Referee 2:  Jose Luis Camargo
4th Official:  Roberto Garcia

Venue: Gillette Stadium; Foxborough, MA
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
Attendance: 46,720


  1. Old Soccer Coach says:

    I thought that Klinsmann’s seven changes showed a willingness to risk giving players opportunities to show what they could do while diagnosing and developing towards 2018 in a game – as Eli perceptively points out – where these players must show the ability to break down a bunker-and-counterattack team. He took a risk for squad development. I would bet he told them that world class national sides take the risk all the time and that he had faith in them that they could show they were a world class side.
    A principle of teaching is to judge the limits of a student’s comfort zone and then set a task beyond that zone that is, however, achievable. That’s what Klinsmann’s did last night, and Zardes to Dempsey with three big plays from Guzan made it succeed.
    Klinsmann deserves credit in that developmental approach for realizing that Greg Garza was going to cost him the game and inserting Fabian Johnson. Guerrier stopped being the clear man of the match in consequence.
    Most fundamentally teaching is about creating growth opportunities that are successful. Last night was. Creating such situations under the pressure to win takes IRON nerves. The man has them.

  2. I thought Garza was better than Chandler but both do not seem to be capable long term solutions. Enter brad Evans….is he the answer at RB allowing Fabian Johnson to square away the left side….then what to do with Yedlin who I’m uncertain belongs on the field at all (at least for now as he makes too many errors).
    Klinsman has a jigsaw puzzle to solve.
    That field was a disgrace and it is an indictment on the game in this country that we continue to watch the game played on sod fields that suck- are dead filers with huge seams and zero bounce. Out and out disgusting from
    My POV.

  3. The Realist Brian says:

    How many of those Haitian forwards and midfielders did you expect to have those skills and speed? Be honest… They skinned a couple of our defenders and showed flair that only Dempsey and AJo show.
    I get Jozy being played in to shape, but he needs to put up or shut up. I am getting tired of him not having the gonads to take shots like when he cut back and assisted Aaron’s disallowed goal. Shoot the ball, man! Where is your confidence?
    Zusi needs to go…push my boy Fabian into midfield. He is the best player on the team running at players.
    How awkward was Mix’s tackle at midfield, by the way? What the hell was he doing?

  4. Andy Muenz says:

    Thanks for the comments about the field condition, Eli, I was planning to say pretty much the same thing.
    I’ll be honest and say that I’m kind of hoping the US loses to Costa Rica in the semis so I can see them at PPL Park. (Not planning to go to the final since it would prevent watching the Union game that day unless I stay up very late.)

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      While as a soccer person I fully agree with the evaluation and criticism of the temporary field, I refer all of us to John Reed’s one word explanation of the First World War to the Portland Chamber of Commerce in 1917, and I quote,”Profits.”

  5. John Ling says:

    I thought Johannsson was the best player for the US, especially in the first half. He seemed (at least to me) to be the only attacking player with any sort of pace until Zardes came on.
    The US are lucky Haiti shoots about as well as the Union. Haiti should’ve been up a goal or two at half.

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