#USAvHAI: What to Watch For

By: Jeff Crandall
Gyasi Zardes
Gyasi Zardes

Not Taking Haiti Lightly

After seeing Haiti pull out a 1-1 draw late against Panama on Tuesday night, there are more than a few reasons for the U.S. not to take Haiti lightly in the team’s second Gold Cup match on Friday night. U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is making sure his team knows them.

“When I saw the 86th minute in that game, I didn’t see tired legs from Haiti, I saw an unbelievably beautiful goal that they scored and they were fighting all 90 minutes,” he told reporters at Thursday night’s press conference. “I think they deserved that tie. They played a very good game against Panama and now they want to surprise the next opponent and that’s us.”

Klinsmann then cited the last time the two teams met, coincidentally at Gillette Stadium six years ago.

“I think there was already a big surprise here in this stadium when they were up 2-1 until the 92nd minute and Stuart Holden scored a beautiful goal to avoid a defeat. We don’t have a positive record against Haiti [the U.S. is 5-6-5 all-time]. There is absolutely no way we’re going to underestimate Haiti, not for one second. We take the same approach as we took Honduras and as Honduras took against us. We are prepared for tomorrow night for all 90 minutes.”

Haiti Roster – European Flavor

Three players on the current Haiti roster appeared in the 2009 draw with the U.S. MNT: defender Frantz Bertin and midfielders James Marcelin and Judelin Aveska.

Twelve players on the Haiti roster ply their trade in Europe. A long-time veteran of clubs in Spain and Switzerland, Bertin currently plays in Greece for Aigianakos. Jeff Louis is a consistent performer for Belgian giants Standard Liege while Jean Sony Alcénat just moved to Romanian club Steau Bucharest.

Seven of the 23 players have ties to clubs in the U.S.: goalkeeper Steward Ceus (Atlanta Silverbacks), defenders Mechack Jérôme (Charlotte Independence), Bitielo Jean Jacques (Kraze United; NPSL), midfielders James Marcelin (Fort Lauderdale Strikers), Pascal Millien (Jacksonville Armada) and Sebastien Thuriere (Charleston Battery). Currently unattached, defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste has also previously played for Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls, Chivas USA and Portland Timbers.

Competition Still On For Starting Spots

While the U.S. won’t take Haiti lightly, the reality of the CONCACAF Gold Cup is that there are a lot of games ahead if the team wants to reach the final on July 26 in Philadelphia and the team is still growing. With the team traveling on Wednesday and taking a training session in Foxborough Thursday, Klinsmann left open the possibility that he would shift his lineup from on Friday.

“If there are changes, it’s clear – a tournament you only win with an entire group and number 23 is as important as number 1. Anything can happen, but also with the tricky situation especially now in the Gold Cup you play every three games the group games which is a very short turn around for every team.

We think through that and we still see a lot of competition going on in our own team. There are quite a few 50/50 situations on the table that you can discuss, as every soccer fan can discuss he wants to see that guy play or that guy play. We have those discussions as well as coaches. We want to see them perform in training -- we want to see them put a stamp on their own personal situation and especially when they get to play.

Fond of Foxborough

Foxborough has long been a pleasant place for the U.S. MNT to play as the team has gone 16-2-5 combined at old Foxboro Stadium and Gillette Stadium. Some of the historic results that have occurred just outside Boston include the U.S. defeating England 2-0 in the 1993 U.S. Cup and a 2-1 win against Jamaica in October 2001 which qualified the team for the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

More recently, Gillette Stadium has been a familiar venue for the side in the Gold Cup, with the team going 6-0-2 over eight matches. Read up on a breakdown of all of the MNT’s Gold Cup games in Foxborough.

Scenarios for Quarterfinal Qualification

Should the MNT defeat Haiti, it will clinch a quarterfinal berth and will be guaranteed to play in Baltimore next Saturday, July 18. A Panama draw with Honduras in the night’s first match combined with a U.S. win against Haiti would also clinch the group for the MNT.