With another uninspiring and sloppy win over Haiti in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the United States have clinched first place in Group A. Again the U.S. struggled to create opportunities and looked susceptible to the counter-attack. If not for some tremendously bad final shots by Haiti the final score could've painted a completely different picture.
Instead, Clint Dempsey's goal early in the second half gave the Americans the small cushion they needed to pull out the victory. When examining individual performances it's pretty much a story of two halves. In the first half the entire team struggled with positioning, field conditions, and overall sluggishness. A halftime substitution gave the USMNT some much-needed width and it showed immediate dividends.
With the last group game against Panama rendered meaningless, expect to see wholesale changes come Monday. Several different players were weak spots tonight, while a few helped there causes. Let's take a look:
Gyasi Zardes: For the second game in a row Zardes makes our trending upwards list. His inclusion at halftime gave the U.S. width and dynamism on the left flank. Just two minutes after coming on his impact was obvious as he set up Clint Dempsey for the only goal of the game. His decisive pass was a result of stellar off-the-ball running and ability to find space inside the box.
Aron Johannsson: Arguably the most dangerous attacker on the field all night, Johannsson was the only player to look up for the game from the opening whistle. His movement caused the Haiti defenders fits as he was able to open up space for Dempsey and Michael Bradley. While he didn't get on the scoresheet he did make himself a nuisance and combine well with his fellow attackers. More performances like this one and the goals will come.
Greg Garza: Another Mexican-American officially cap-tied to the U.S after his appearance in the game, Garza struggled on both ends of play. He was unable to get free down the left side and his natural attacking ability was stifled. More importantly the Haitian wingers and strikers consistently beat him on the flanks to be able to penetrate into the box. A more composed team would've easily taken advantage of his missteps. With Fabian Johnson likely to continue as the left back, Garza's future playing time seems sparse.
Jozy Altidore: Oh man. Jozy had another rough night. This time he only made it to halftime before getting subbed off. He found himself free inside the box a few times but failed to pull the trigger. He did manage one shot off-target. He's not struggling enough to where it's a hindrance to the team, but he's not really effective either. He's clearly struggling with fitness and confidence after returning from yet another hamstring injury. Altidore has a full week to figure it out before the quarterfinals begin. However, if Johannsson continues to perform well, he could find himself in a reserve role.
Mix Diskerud: Our man Mix had an awful first half. Losing possession several times in key areas. Not closing down defensively in the middle of the field. He looked like a player with no guidance or instruction. In the second half when the U.S. switched to the more familiar diamond he settled down and found a rhythm in the build-up play. Mix and Bradley started to combine well and the attacking flow looked more positive. The terrible opening 45 minutes still leaves a stain on his overall performance. His playing time is likely not affected by this game as he'll continue to be a spot starter and super-sub.
Graham Zusi: Where to begin with Graham Zusi? His first touch is a complete letdown the majority of the time, he constantly runs into defenders while losing possession, and when he's finally able to get free for a cross they're usually floated over his intended target. Frankly, Zusi has no business being on the U.S. national team with several players more deserving being left out.