A day after the Mexican national team stumbled in its Gold Cup opener, the U.S. men’s national team also found itself in a trick first match of the competition.
Fortunately for Gregg Berhalter’s men, however, they were able to fend off a feisty Haiti side, with a first-half header finish from Sam Vines eventually holding up as the winner in an eventual 1-0 victory for the USMNT at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas on Sunday night.
Facing a Haiti side missing a handful of players due to a recent COVID-19 outbreak among its squad, the Americans scored early to take control, with a Gyasi Zardes redirecting a Shaq Moore cross into the path of a streaking Vines, who headed home his first national team goal in the eighth minute.
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The USMNT dealt with some early adversity in the form of the early departure of veteran winger Paul Arriola, who was forced out of the match in the 14th minute with hamstring tightness, paving the way for Nicholas Gioacchini to enter the match.
Haiti had a good chance to equalize in the 20th minute when Derrick Etienne found himself with a clear look from 15 yards out, but the Columbus Crew winger sent his shot wide of the USMNT net.
The Americans struggled to find a second goal despite creating a handful of chances, with Walker Zimmerman seeing one chance hit the crossbar and another chance saved just before halftime.
The second half saw the USMNT continue to struggle to add an insurance goal, but came closest in the 67th minute when Nicholas Gioacchini sent a shot off the post.
The USMNT received a boost from second-half substitutes Gianluca Busio, Eryk Williamson, Daryl Dike and James Sands, who all helped contribute to the home side taking control of the match in the final 30 minutes in was the national team debut for Busio, Williamson and Sands.
Busio was particularly impressive, forcing a good save with a hard shot early in his appearance, and showing poise and confidence on the ball as the USMNT operated in a 5-3-2 formation to close out the match.
The USMNT finished with a 63-37 edge in possession, outshooting Haiti 13-10, though that a good chunk of that edge in possession was accumulated in the final third of the match, as Haiti struggled to mount much of a threat late on.
The American defense held on for the shutout, with Miles Robinson and Walker Zimmerman completing a solid night in central defense, and Matt Turner recorded three saves for the shutouts.
The USMNT sits in second place in Group B after the victory, behind Canada, which posted a 4-1 win against Martinique to start the night. The Americans will continue their Gold Cup on Thursday against Martinique.