BRIAN SCIARETTA - Monday, February 18, 2013
The United States U-20 national team struggled to a 2-1 win over Haiti in the opening game of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying on Monday night in Puebla, Mexico.
The United States enjoyed a strong opening to the game when winger Daniel Cuevas was tripped in the box in just the second minute. On the ensuing penalty, Luis Gil stepped up and buried the penalty past Haitian keeper Ronald Elusma for a 1-0 lead.
In the 26th minute, the U.S team doubled its advantage when Daniel Cuevas received a long pass across the box from Mario Rodriguez and beat Elusma to put the Stars and Stripes up 2-0.
Despite that commanding lead, though, it would be Haiti that would control the rest of the match and take advantage of the United States' disorganized backline.
In the 50th minute, Haiti would finally get on the scoreboard when Wiberne Augusmat beat U.S right back Boyd Okwuonu and sent a high shot past Cody Cropper to trim the deficit to 2-1.
In the end of the game, Haiti had more possession, more shots and more corner kicks than the Americans. The struggling performance will likely force U.S. head coach Tab Ramos to make several changes ahead of Friday's game against Costa Rica.
Most notably, Ramos will need to fix the problems in the defense. Injuries have hurt this American squad, primarily in central defense, and tonight's pairing of Caleb Stanko and Shane O'Neil - who are both normally midfielders - was not effective. The fullbacks on the team, meanwhile, were converted central defenders in Javan Torre and Boyd Okwuonu, both of whom struggled to move forward effectively as needed in a 4-3-3 formation.
Still, no matter how ugly, the win gives the U.S. three points, and if Costa Rica wins or ties against Haiti on Wednesday, the Americans will advance to the quarterfinals even before Friday's game.