The United States will hope for a more comfortable outing against Haiti on Friday than it endured in its opening Gold Cup match earlier this week. Jugen Klinsmann’s team prevailed against Honduras to get the defense of its trophy underway with three points, but was given a stern test in a narrow 2-1 victory that owed much to some fine goalkeeping from Brad Guzan. The good news is that a victory against Haiti at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., will see the U.S. through to the quarterfinals with a game to spare.
“There's a lot of stuff to work on still,” Klinsmann conceded in this pre-match press conference, reports Yahoo. “We hope that game by game we pick up the rhythm and we fine-tune a lot of things. We come with [only] a week preparation and everyone comes from a different corner of the world. So we've got to get them on the same page and this process is still ongoing. We hope that this kind of gels more and more and more with every game and every day we are on the training field.”
Clint Dempsey scored both goals for the U.S. off two headers, making it a fine first competitive outing for the 32-year-old since the decision was made to take the captain’s armband away from him and hand it to Michael Bradley following his domestic suspension. The performance of the defensive players was less encouraging, however. Right-back Timmy Chandler was taken off just past the hour mark after yet another uncomfortable outing in a U.S. shirt. Meanwhile, Klinsmann has signaled that he will keep faith with his young center-back duo of John Brooks and Ventura Alvarado, despite their struggles against an impressive Honduran side.
There remains the possibility for changes elsewhere in the lineup. Against a Haiti side that is on paper the weakest opponent in a tough group, some squad players could be given a run out in an effort to maintain their sharpness and keep his first-choice selection fresh for when the Gold Cup really gets going, in the knockout stages.
“A tournament you only win with an entire group, and number 23 is as important as number one,” Klinsmann said. “Gold cup is a little bit of a different approach because of that rule that you can switch players after the group stage, but you want to give everyone that is here the feeling that we count on you.”
But the U.S. will already be aware of the dangers of taking Haiti lightly. In the opening game of the competition, the team ranked 79th in the world shocked 2013 Gold Cup runners-up and dark horses for the title this time around, Panama, with a late equalizer to take a point from a 1-1 draw. And midfielder Jean-Marc Alexandre, formerly of Major League Soccer sides Real Salt Lake and San Jose Earthquakes and now in Malaysia with Negeri Sembilian, was optimistic Haiti can build on that positive start.
“I’m very proud. I think today we revealed our character as a team,” he said, reports the Concacaf website. “We persevered until the end and we got a good result, not to forget Panama finished second in the tournament the last Gold Cup. For us I think it’s a positive result moving forward.
“It shows that against a high caliber team we can perform. In our group, without a doubt, we are the underdog and it’s a challenge we’re willing to accept.”
Kickoff time: 8:30 p.m. EDT
TV channel: Fox Sports 1, Univision Deportes, UniMás