The USMNT came out for the game against Haiti with a new formation, tactics, and starting XI. Jurgen Klinsmann set up his team in a 4-3-1-2 formation, this was a clear designed formation to allow the U.S. to have outlet passes in the midfield against a Haiti team looking to play counter attack football. Klinsmann kept the spine of his team the same, Guzan, Bradley, Dempsey, and Altidore all started the game. There were changes all around them, a brand new back line that feature Tim Ream and Omar Gonzalez as the two center backs. Brad Evans started at right back, and Greg Garza played on the left side. Mix Diskerud was given the start in a left central midfield position, Graham Zusi played on the right, and Michael Bradley played in between them. Up top, Clint Dempsey played in an attacking midfield role, supporting Jozy Altidore and Aron Johannsson. From the opening kick the U.S. was able to establish some possession, however, it was mostly between the center backs and the central midfielders. They leisurely knocked the ball around in between them, trying to get all the players some touches so they could grow into the game a bit quicker than against Honduras. Haiti was not fooled, they quickly swarmed the U.S. midfielders ready to pounce on any lose balls. Their 4-2-3-1 formation gave them a lot of players clogging up the passing lanes in the middle of the park. In the 10th minute Haiti countered on a poor U.S. pass and was able to draw a foul just outside the box. The ensuing free kick went off the crossbar and out of play. The opening 20 minutes were similar to what the U.S. showed against Honduras, they struggled to hold onto the ball, and seemed to constantly be chasing back to try and catch Haiti’s counter attacks. Many times Guzan could be heard urging his back line to push up the field. Klinsmann was more focused on his offensive trio as he kept telling them not to come back into the midfield to try to relieve pressure off the midfielders, but to push forward and stay active to occupy the Haitian back line. In the 35th minute the U.S. caught Haiti with too many men committed to attack and countered with speed. Michael Bradley played a ball over the top to Altidore who brought it down and fired a shot that was blocked. The ball fell to Aron Johannsson who found the back of the net on his first touch. However, the goal was called off for offsides. On the replay it appeared that a player from Haiti kept Johannsson onside, further adding to an already frustrating first half for the USMNT. As the first half came to a close the U.S. used quick one and two touch passing combined with sharp runs from the outside backs to generate a few chances, but Haiti collapsed 10 men into the box making it hard for the U.S. to get a clean look at goal. Altidore had space a couple of times, but poor touches from the young striker turned into giveaways. As the referee blew his whistle to signal the half, a visibly disappointed Jurgen Klinsmann went into the locker room ready to shake things up for the second half. He did this by swapping Gyasi Zardes for Altidore. Dempsey went back up top, and the U.S. resumed its 4-4-2 diamond shape from game one. The new formation change made Mix Diskerud look a lot more comfortable in his role after a shaky first half. Right away Zardes made an impact with his pace. He was able to get onto a pass from the midfield, sprint towards the end line past a few defenders, and then cut the ball back for Clint Dempsey who buried the shot from just behind the penalty spot. After the goal Haiti stormed right back and was able to pick up 3 quick corners, they did not amount to much but the U.S. was given a reminder about what getting complacent after a goal can do. Johannsson and Zardes used their pace numerous times on the left side to pin back the Haitian defense. The U.S. seemed to get comfortable in the game after enjoying nice spells of possession and attacking football. Until the 57th minute where Haiti countered and sent Duckens Nazon in behind the U.S. defense, but Guzan was able to come off of his line to make the save and preserve the 1-0 lead. The game settled down from their, neither team had any good looks at goal. Towards the end of the game Haiti began to push the play, but the U.S. played strong, organized defense that didn’t give Haiti a clean look at goal. With this 1-0 win the USMNT clinched the number one spot in Group A. This sets them up nicely for a favorable match up in the quarterfinals.
The U.S. plays next against Panama on July 13th. In this game look for Klinsmann to continue to change the lineup around. He will probably give some of his main players like Dempsey and Bradley a break. Nick Ramando may get a look in goal, but Brad Guzan has earned the number one spot after his play in the past two gold cup games. Chris Wondolowski might be given a chance to start the game, as Altidore’s play has not been up to par. Going forward against Panama the U.S. needs to make a few adjustments. The first would be to have possession in their opponents end. They need their midfielders to take control of the game and push play forward. This might get easier against Panama because they are not a team to sit back and counter. They like to possess the ball on offense. The U.S. also needs to take advantage of their pace with more through balls to their outside wing players. Zardes had a field day on the wing against Haiti and if hes given the smallest amount of space he can create chances. Yedlin may be re-introduced into the squad and look for his pace on the outside to be a game changer. The U.S. will look to continue progressing as a team and pick up another 3 points to gain momentum going into the knockout round.