FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Jurgen Klinsmann made numerous changes to the USMNT starting lineup in their second match of group play, but it was a halftime substitution that turned the tide in the Americans' favor as they defeated Haiti 1-0 at Gillette Stadium, in the process clinching Group A and a spot in the knockout stage of the Gold Cup.
After a stagnant first half of play for the host team, Gyasi Zardes came on to start the second and set up Clint Dempsey’s 47th-minute strike to send the United States to their second win of the tournament. But it did not come easy.
Klinsmann rolled out a completely different back line than he did in the opening match of group play and they were put to the test from the opening whistle.
Haiti entered with a furious pace that caught the United States off guard and kept them on their heels for much of the first half behind the efforts of Duckens Nazon and Wilde-Donald Guerrier.
Despite being unable to control much possession through the midfield, the U.S. looked to strike first in the 35th minute after Jozy Atidore worked the Haitian defense in the box and attempted a pass through a couple of blue jerseys and though it was deflected, Aron Johannson was on the other side to slot it home, but not before the play was ruled offside.
Needing an offensive spark, Zardes subbed on for Altidore to start the second half and less than a minute after joining the fray, the move paid big dividends for a team that was sluggish on the attack in the first half.
Following a quick Haitian effort by Jean Sony Alcenat, which Brad Guzan gobbled up, the US forged downfield on the counter. Greg Garza played the ball to Zardes on the left side of the box and as pressure closed in on the LA Galaxy forward he found Dempsey, who buried his third goal of the Gold Cup in the 47th minute.
Haiti refused to lay down, however, and should've equalized in the 57th when Nazon beat the US offside trap and advanced on an unprotected Guzan. But the Yanks 'keeper stepped forward and made a huge save, blocking Nazon's bid to the near post and shepherding him wide enough to force an off-target followup.
Haiti continued their relentless pursuit of a leveler, with Nazon and Guerrier making themselves known on numerous occasions, but the USMNT defense and Guzan, who made four second-half saves, stood firm under the pressure.
The United States can now look at Monday’s group stage closing match vs. Panama as an opportunity to tune things up a bit before the quarterfinals, while Haiti will look to dig their heels in against Honduras in Kansas City.