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2021 Gold Cup Recap: USA 1-0 Haiti - An adequate win to start the tournament

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It wasn’t desolate, but it wasn’t great

United States v Haiti: Group B - 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

In an overall uninspiring performance, the USA came away with a 1-0 win over Haiti thanks to an 8th minute Sam Vines goal. Overall, the game could be characterized as uneven as the USA spent much of the game failing to break down Haiti as Le Grenadiers managed to hold the Americans to just one goal and have a punchers chance at a point for the whole game. Out of 10, the game was maybe a 3, 3.5 at best, perhaps the ball was covered in BBQ sauce or something.

I was not exactly expecting to be totally right about everything when I tweeted this but one out of two isn’t bad:

What happened next was not at all like two of the best countries in the world playing each other in a memorable final just to have Gareth Southgate ice his own kickers before the penalty shootout. It wasn’t quite peak England, but that isn’t far off.

It’s not clear exactly what the expectations were ahead of an off year Gold Cup after the USMNT beat Mexico to win the Nations League, but apparently, Gregg Berhalter fired up Football Manager and saw that all of his good players were on 60% conditioning and picked a mostly second choice lineup from third choice players in the pool.

On the one hand, it isn’t a very exciting lineup for fans, but on the other it may signal that Berhalter is leaning into the antagonistic relationship he has with them and that is something that should be respected.

A number of Haiti’s players were out due to positive COVID tests so the options were somewhat limited for manager Jean-Jacques Pierre.

The squad features players representing teams in far flung locales such as Romania, Kazakhstan, Alabama, Ecuador, and the lower divisions of Europe along with the Haitian domestic league.

Enough of my charming trademark snark, here’s the gifs of goals and other things that went on during the game

In the early going the US effectively controlled most of the ball and set about attacking the Haiti goal. Meanwhile, Les Grenadiers were effective and holding off the Americans and even made some promising moves forward on the counter.

But holding off the Americans only lasted 8 minutes after Walker Zimmerman pointed at where he was going to pass a line breaking ball to Kellyn Acosta, then passed there for Acosta to dish to Shaq Moore who sent a cross that bounced around the box before finding Sam Vines who pounced on it for the first goal.

We also learned something.

This surprised me because I swear that Kyle Veckerman scored a goal in the 2016 Copa America. Sadly, the Stars and Stripes would have to make an early substitution as Paul Arriola suffered a leg injury making Nico Gioacchini enter the match.

As the half wore on, it was almost like there were two teams on the field. On the right side, the attack was dynamic with interplay between Shaq Moore and the wing, but on the left side was Jonathan Lewis. The US continued applying pressure, but Haiti hung tough though Brian Sylvestre did make some big saves. As a result, the Yanks went into the half up 1-0.

The US struggled to find a second score through the opening quarter hour of the half and just past the hour mark Gianluca Busio came on for Jackson Yueill and Daryl Dike entered for Jonathan Lewis. The switch put Zardes out wide left while Dike assumed center striker duties. Attacks were somewhat more connected down the left after the sub and Zardes and Dike did some interesting things with their runs into the box, but another goal was still elusive though Gioacchini did slam a shot off of the post.

In the 76th minute Berhalter made another change with James Sands coming in for Shaq Moor and Gioacchini making way for Eryk Williamson. That move shifted more players around with the team sitting in a 5-3-2 without the ball with Zimmerman, Sands, and Robinson in the middle flanked by Vines and Acosta sliding over to right back. This was clearly an effort to defend a narrow lead, but why it was so narrow to begin with is another issue. The decision to move to a defensive lineup almost backfired as Haiti had a late chance at a goal that probably would have been overturned because of the 10 fouls they committed in the box, but the ball was ultimately cleared to secure the victory.

Some musings about the game

  • Jackson Yueill could not deal with Haiti’s pressure, they limited his effectiveness in distributing the ball and forced him to rush or misplay passes.
  • The team lacked a creative spark, Lletget isn’t that player, Yueill struggled, Arriola is not the most attack minded winger, and as a result the really good attacking plays ran though... Shaq Moore... the right back.
  • Haiti did not play scared, the team challenged the US, pressed and pushed forward in numbers on the counter. A better finish on some nice chances they had and this game has a totally different result.
  • The pairing of Robinson and Zimmerman in the back worked well together with the Atlanta United defender keeping a calm and steady presence and Zimmerman able to take space with the ball at his feet to try for line breaking passes.