The summer of soccer continues as the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup gets underway this weekend. And the last matchup of the opening weekend could set the tone for the rest of the tournament. On Sunday, Team USA will take on Haiti in Group B play. This matchup should not be taken for granted as both teams head into this Gold Cup with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove. Prepare for some potential fireworks in the early going of the Gold Cup.
Concacaf Gold Cup Group B: United States vs. Haiti
When: Sunday, July 11 at 9 p.m. ET
Where: Children's Mercy Park (Kansas City, Kansas)
TV: FS1 and Univision
Three Things to Watch
1. Team USA has momentum on their side
The Americans enter this year's Gold Cup one of the favorites to win, especially after capturing the inaugural Nations League trophy last month. They defeated archrival Mexico to win that title, needing two extra periods to do it. But winning the Nations League gave Team USA a new sense of energy and purpose, and this presents an opportunity to build on this. The Americans are seeking their first Gold Cup title since 2017, their seventh in team history, and their eighth championship of any kind.
Team USA automatically qualified for the Gold Cup due to its success in Nations League tournament. The Americans will be well-rested against a Haitian squad that's already played two preliminary Gold Cup matches.
2. Could we see a repeat of 2019?
In the last Gold Cup, the Haitians were the Cinderella story. They hadn't been able to get past the quarterfinals since finishing as the runners-up in 1977 and had only qualified for the tournament for the seventh time since 1985. But in 2019, Haiti reached the semifinals where Mexico needed extra time to advance to the championship where El Tri would beat Team USA 1-0 for their 11th Gold Cup/Concacaf championship. Despite the loss, the Haitians proved that they're for real, and now they're back for more.
Haiti is already 2-0 in this Gold Cup, dominating Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 6-1 on July 2 followed by a 4-1 victory over Bermuda on Tuesday to advance to the group stage. Team USA automatically qualified for group play following its performance in the Nations League, a change in this year's Gold Cup format, while Haiti had to earn its spot by taking care of business in the preliminary rounds.
3. Players to watch
Haiti is led by the forward tandem of Duckens Nazon and Frantzdy Pierrot, who've already combined for seven goals in the team's two preliminary round wins. These two will be the focus of Team USA's defense, which is led by goalkeeper Brad Guzan. This will be Guzan's first Gold Cup appearance since 2017, although he has 55 career caps to his credit. Elsewhere on the pitch, forward Gyasi Zardes, midfielder Kellyn Acosta, and defenseman Reggie Cannon (96 combined caps, 13 combined goals) are key players for the Americans. Something else worth keeping an eye on, those expected to sit this opening match out for Team USA include Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tim Weah, Jordan Morris, Josh Sargent, and Zack Steffen.
Haiti leads the all-time series against the United States 8-6-5. But the Americans have not posted a loss in their last four matchups with Caribbean country, going 2-0-2. Overall, Haiti is 1-10-2 in its last 13 matchups against Concacaf's North American members – the U.S., Mexico and Canada. The Americans also enter this Gold Cup with plenty of momentum, having gone 8-1-1 in their last 10 matches. This won't be a high-scoring affair but look for Team USA to pull out the opening win.