If the US national team’s victory over Honduras in their 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup opener was rough at times — and it certainly was — then Friday’s clash with Group A underdogs Haiti (8:30 pm ET, Fox Sports 1/UniMas) will be a welcome downshift in competition and a chance to right a handful of wrongs as Jurgen Klinsmann’s side continues its defense of the Gold Cup.
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Before the USMNT labored to their 2-1 victory at Toyota Stadium on Tuesday, a desperate and gritty Haiti side was busy fighting back from a 1-0 deficit to snatch a 1-1 draw against Panama.
Klinsmann hinted on Thursday that a few changes might be made to the starting lineup for Friday night’s game, given the short, three-day turnaround between games during the group stage. In particular, the midfield, which struggled badly at times against Honduras, will likely be rotated with Mix Diskerud and Alejandro Bedoya spelling Kyle Beckerman and Gyasi Zardes.
The midfield, which was frequently overrun by heavy, high pressure from their Honduran counterparts, will have to be much more stable in order to avoid similar struggles against an extremely athletic Haiti side. Though out-possessed by more than two-to-one against Panama, the Haitians posed a serious threat on the counter attack and very much deserved the draw.
The “every game is a battle in this tournament” mantra will certainly continue when the Yanks and Les Grenadiers do battle at Gillette Stadium. Haiti were whistled for 24 fouls and shown two yellow cards (which could have easily been three times more) in the draw against Panama, which was a blatantly obvious part of their gameplan — to limit prolonged periods of Panamanian possession and create a sense of disjointedness in the build-up.
For the USMNT, a victory over Haiti would not only secure their place in the quarterfinals, but would go a long way toward locking up the top spot in Group A. With Honduras and Panama set to battle for second place, Friday could end with a four-point lead on the rest of the group.