US edges past Haiti

The United States overcame a scrappy Haiti team with a tight 1-0 victory to open its Group B action with all three points.

The Stars and Stripes got off to an ideal start, courtesy of Sam Vines. The team had a well-executed charge into the box in the eighth minute. Gyasi Zardes redirected a slightly wayward cross into the box and he was able to poke the ball upward, which set up Vines perfectly. The defender’s trailing run into the box was rewarded with the opportunity on goal. Vines left no doubt on his header, connecting well to beat Haitian goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre.

Zardes wrote his name into the U.S. national team’s history books on the play. He notched his 10th USMNT assist, which made him the second-fastest player in the country’s history to reach double-digits in both goals (12) and assists. The only player to accomplish the feat faster was none other than U.S. legend Landon Donovan, who accomplished the same feat in only 50 caps.

After an inspired opening 10 minutes, the United States suffered a setback shortly after their goal. In the 14th minute, veteran forward Paul Arriola had to leave the game because of hamstring tightness. He was replaced by Nicholas Gioacchini.

For the rest of the opening half, both teams traded half-chances that didn’t come to fruition. Duckens Nazon looked lively for Haiti and was a constant threat. The U.S. would close the opening 45 minutes with seven shots to Haiti’s five. One of the best chances for the Americans was shortly before the halftime whistle when Walker Zimmerman elevated in the box for a header that Sylvestre managed to collect. He would finish the game with four saves.

With a relatively inexperienced U.S. roster, the team couldn’t find its best rhythm in the second half against a resolute Haiti defense. Still, the Stars and Stripes managed to hold on from an important opening victory in the 2021 Gold Cup.