In all likelihood, the United States will be able to seal a spot in the Gold Cup quarterfinal round tonight against Haiti. Tuesday night went pretty well on paper for the USMNT: They beat Honduras - the strongest opponent they'll face until the semifinals, most likely - while the other game ended in a surprising draw. Now the US will play the weakest team in the group, as Haiti's roster is mostly made of players in various 2nd divisions. That's significant progress for Les Grenadiers, who were playing mostly domestic players until not too long ago, but it still makes this a clear David vs. Goliath pairing.
Key player: Aron Johansson
With the heavily rotated lineup Jurgen Klinsmann is likely to send out tonight, the primary job of making sure Haiti doesn't hang on like they did against Panama will fall to Johansson. The entire US team needs to up the pace of play to a far higher level than Panama managed on Tuesday, of course, but the easiest way to do that is to finish the first good chance you get and make your opponent chase the game. Johansson is an ace finisher, so this match may end up tailor-made for his game.
Key question: Can the USMNT avoid injury?
Scheduling soccer matches is just not something we do well in this region. How else can you explain teams having to play in Texas heat Tuesday before flying to Massachusetts to play on the death-trap that is temporary grass laid on top of artificial turf? Good job CONCACAF!
It may sound arrogant, but there's no reason for the US to fail to beat Haiti convincingly. As such, the issue here is about the Gold Cup as a whole. Klinsmann will be rotating plenty of fresh players into this game, but in many cases those players will be coming off of a full European season and will have to play on a seam-covered, unreliable surface that seems almost expressly designed to injure people. Just playing on turf would be far, far more sensible, but somehow this mistake keeps being made.
Anyway, the US bench needs to be very alert about injuries here, because even with the rotation there are plenty of faces we'll see tonight that the USMNT is going to need in the knockout stage. For this specific game, that means getting the job done early and then letting the ball do the work for the rest of the game. This is an opportunity for the US to give themselves a sort of break even while having to play, but it's going to require a far better start than what we saw against Honduras.
Match date/time: Friday 7/10, 8:30pm Eastern
Venue: Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, MA)
TV: Fox Sports 1 (English), UniMas (Spanish), Univision Deportes (Spanish)
Online: Fox Sports Go (English), Fox Soccer 2Go (English, requires subscription), Univision Deportes En Vivo Extra (Spanish)
Check back in two hours for our gamethread.