Below is a preview of the US-Haiti match tomorrow in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which comes from Graig Carbino of USSoccerPlayers Newsletter.
The United States National Team takes on Haiti at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA on Saturday evening in each squad’s final Group B match of Gold Cup 2009. With the US already qualified for the Quarterfinals, they will look to clinch first place against a Haitian team that still has it all to play for.
The US come into game three having waltzed past an overmatched Grenada before being made to work a bit against Honduras. In the end, a plus six-goal differential with no goals allowed qualifies as job done for the United States.
Do not be surprised to see lesser-used players like Jimmy Conrad, Colin Clark, Sam Cronin and Kenny Cooper get extended looks on Saturday evening. New England Revolution defender Jay Heaps will be looking for his first international appearance at the age of 32, while young US goalkeeper Luis Robles may deputize for Gold Cup regular Troy Perkins.
For Haiti it’s all about limiting the damage. Sure, they could come out and throw caution to the wind, but why? All they realistically need from this match is a draw. Four points would at least clinch third place in the group and leave the Haitians with a positive goal differential. They would need results from other groups to advance, but they would have done enough to put themselves in position.
Playing against a somewhat undermanned US squad might give Haiti the false hope of being able to really go for a win and reach as high as second place in Group B. If their first two games in the tournament have shown anything so far, it's that they really do not have the offensive capabilities to push six or seven players into the opposition defensive third and generate tons of offense.
In Haiti’s first group game against Honduras they were able to keep Los Catrachos at bay for long stretches without creating any offensive threat of their own. In the end, a relatively even match was decided by Honduran forward Carlos Costly. He's the type of powerful and quick player that Haiti was always going to struggle to contain.
Keeping control of Costly was one thing. Of bigger concern for Haiti is their lack of a similar player. Not having a forward capable of either holding the ball up when it is played in to him or having the speed necessary to run off the ball into dangerous positions have made this Haiti squad a bit of a vanilla bunch.
Sure, they will attack with USL players Fabrice Noel (Puerto Rico Islanders) and Leonel Saint-Preux (Minnesota Thunder) but that really shouldn’t be enough to challenge a US back-line that will be made up of players that regularly compete at a higher level.
Young Real Salt Lake forward Jean Alexandre (who is on loan to USL club Austin Aztex) is also capable of springing a surprise up front. He was substituted early in the second-half against Honduras and did not feature for Haiti against Grenada.
That match against the Spice Boyz was probably the best reflection of what Haiti does offer going forward. The Haitians controlled possession but were basically gifted two goals by Grenada after failing to develop much of their own offense.
The first goal went in off of Noel’s back after Grenada failed to clear a free kick in the 14th minute. If the first goal was luck then the second was just a pure gift. Grenada captain Anthony Modeste ‘dummied’ a ball in his own penalty area allowing James Marcelin to walk in alone and easily slot home the match clincher.
Besides those two simple chances, Haiti were relegated to shots from distance against a usually generous Grenada defense. If you can’t generate offense against Grenada, you will not do it against the United States, first choice lineup or not.
When all is said and done, this match should not be one for the history books. Haiti would be well advised to keep things tight at the back and maybe counter here and there. Do the things that they have done will this tournament without trying to step outside the box too much. The US will look to keep possession and break down a defense that has remained organized and compact.
Haiti playing to their current strengths could prove a tough nut to crack. Going against conservatism and shooting for all three points might prove lethal for a squad that has not shown the ability to push the offense in this tournament.