This one of the more unlikely Gold Cup matchups in recent memory. If you would have told me a few weeks ago that Haiti would be in the semifinals, I might have disagreed with you. But as the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup has reached the semifinal stage, Haiti is here and ready to shock the world again. This time, however, their biggest challenge to date stands in between them and history. Seven-time Gold Cup champion Mexico awaits them and is looking to reaffirm their place atop Concacaf.
Haiti has used this tournament to establish themselves as Concacaf's newest contender. And if they can upset the Gold Cup's greatest team in Mexico, they can change Concacaf and Caribbean soccer forever. "El Tri," on the other hand, isn't in a hurry to give up their top spot as they pursue the all-time record of eight Gold Cup trophies. As the cliche goes, this is the classic matchup between the unstoppable force (Haiti) and the immovable object (Mexico).
Haiti vs. Mexico
When: Tuesday, July 2 at 10:30 p.m. ET
Where: State Farm Stadium (Glendale, Ariz.)
TV: FS1 and Univision
Three Things to Watch
1. Haiti's miracle run
Before now, Haiti had never appeared in the Gold Cup semifinals. They reached the quarterfinals in three of their previous six appearances but were immediately eliminated once they got to that level. But something is different about this year's team. They only gave up two goals during Group B play as they scored twice in the second half to edge Bermuda, shut out Nicaragua, then pulled off a major upset against Costa Rica to claim the group block.
This past Saturday, Haiti took the pitch against Canada. The Canadians are the only other team other than the United States and Mexico to win the Gold Cup championship, and they were looking to zoom past Haiti in search of their second title. But the Haitians had other plans as they overcame a two-goal deficit to defeat Canada 3-2 (a score I somehow predicted correctly), and change their team's history. Now they look to add another layer by advancing to their first-ever championship game. Can Haiti overcome mighty Mexico in order to do that?
2. How much did Costa Rica take out of Mexico?
That's the question that everyone is asking as the Mexican team needed penalty kicks in order to send the Costa Ricans back home for the summer. Costa Rica came out firing on all cylinders after losing to Haiti in their previous game and was ready to rebound by knocking off their Latin American rivals. But Mexico held strong as they broke the 1-1 tie by winning the penalty shootout 5-4. Now they have to regroup and re-energize themselves to face a very upset-minded Haitian team.
3. By the numbers
Here is what Haiti has to contend with when they take the field; Mexico has won three of their last five semifinal contests and has an overall record of 8-3 in Gold Cup semifinal matches. The Mexican team has scored 17 goals in those games, and are 3-1 against Caribbean teams in the semifinals as well. Mexico is on a 10-game winning streak (outscoring opponents 30-10) and hasn't lost in over a year. "El Tri" is unbeaten against the Haitians (7-0-2, 26-2 scoring advantage) in the nine previous matchups between these two nations.
Overall Mexico is 77-8-12 (with 316 goals scored) against Concacaf's Caribbean membership. And while Haiti has yet to defeat Mexico, the Caribbean island nation has 10 wins total against Mexico's neighbors in both the U.S. and Canada. Haiti's record against Latin America (Central America, South America, Spanish Caribbean islands) as a whole is 53-89-42. Beating Mexico won't be an impossible task as Haiti has shown that nothing is impossible, but pulling off this upset will be a very tall order. The winner of this game will face the winner of Wednesday's other semifinal between the United States, the defending Gold Cup champions, and Jamaica.
Haiti has left its mark in Gold Cup history and has earned the soccer world's respect. The Haitians have given themselves something to build off of heading into the Concacaf Nations League later this year, and they'll be a team to watch in the next Gold Cup in 2021. Don't be surprised if they also make a big push during qualifying games for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Haiti will leave one more lasting impression by giving Mexico a fight in this game, but Mexico will pull away with the close win as El Tri showcases why they are the most dominant team in Concacaf.
Prediction: Mexico 4, Haiti 3
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.