TOURNAMENT hosts USA were far from their best when opening their CONCACAF Gold Cup account. But will they brush Haiti aside with ease? Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) provides the preview.
USA v Haiti | 01.30 Saturday | BT Sport 2
It was far from a polished performance but USA kicked-off their CONCACAF Gold Cup defence with a 2-1 victory over Honduras. Jurgen Klinsmann’s men toiled for large swathes of that match and struggled to cope with their energetic opposition in the sauna-like humidity of Frisco. But three points is on the board and that’s all that matters according to the Stars and Stripes boss.
Next up for the yanks is a showdown with Haiti and another three points would seal their place in the quarter-finals and should also be enough to cement top spot in Group A. They should win comfortably but then they should have been good enough to beat Honduras with ease too…
The US relied upon skipper Michael Bradley’s set-pieces, shaky defending and Clint Dempsey’s eye for goal in their opener and it’s not unfair to say they were forced to withstand a barrage of pressure from Honduras in the first and last 20 minutes. Klinsmann’s troops were out-shot 16-6 and needed Brad Guzan to make a number of important stops.
Centre-back pairing Ventura Alvarado and John Brooks struggled defensively – Honduras’ pace and movement exposed their inefficiencies whilst Tim Chandler confirmed US fans fears that he’s just not good enough at right-back. Luckily for Chandler, he won’t face as tough as test as Honduras’ Andy Najar until the knockout stage now.
Klinsmann has confirmed he’ll look to make a few tweaks and changes to personnel with a short turnaround between matches. Jozy Altidore failed to make an impact in the curtain-raiser and may find his place under pressure against a Haiti side that actually hold a W5-D6-L5 advantage over the US but it’s worth pointing out their last success over the Stars and Stripes came all the way back in 1969.
And the Americans can thank Panama for the early warning signs too. Despite dominating proceedings against Haiti, Panama were caught out by a late equaliser on the break. You just feel that USA’s poor performance against Honduras, coupled with the Panama-Haiti outcome, will have served as warning to what could potentially go wrong for Klinsmann’s troops.
Haiti coach Marc Collat was bullish about their shock-potential before their Gold Cup campaign kicked-off and although Les Grenadiers have now suffered just one defeat in nine, should the showdown follow a similar pattern as their opener, lightning is unlikely to strike twice.
Having seen US’s problematic defence at first-hand again, I won’t be trusting the win ‘to nil’ approach here. Haiti looked lively enough in patches against Panama and may be presented with an opportunity or two but their first aim will be to try and keep the score down.
The yanks have plundered 14 gaols in five successive wins so they should be able to hack up against a Haitian team that’s leaked two or more in five of their previous nine, including against Barbados, French Guyana plus Antigua & Barbuda.
As always, it’s difficult to find a bet in these sort of lopsided fixtures. I’m opting for a small play on BetBright’s 11/10 that USA win both halves. They’ve enough in their locker, even with the potential for a raft of changes, to put Haiti to the sword and seal their place in the quarter-finals with a game to spare.
USA v Haiti – USA to win both halves (11/10 BetBright)
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