All four teams in Group A played for the second time Friday night in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup in a doubleheader at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
In the early game, Honduras and Panama played out a physical 1-1 draw that satisfied neither side. In the late match, the United States edged Haiti 1-0 and clinched top spot in the group.
Here are the key takeaways from Day 4 at the Gold Cup.
U.S. less than impressive against Haiti
Following a 2-1 victory over Honduras on Tuesday, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann made seven changes and deployed his side in a 4-3-1-2 formation against Haiti. The experimentation did not work well, and the Americans were unconvincing in a 1-0 win.
The seven changes included four new starters across the back line, while captain Michael Bradley played a deeper role in midfield alongside Graham Zusi and Mix Diskerud. Clint Dempsey supported the forward pairing of Jozy Altidore and Aron Johannsson.
With all the tinkering, perhaps it was no surprise that the U.S. lacked cohesion throughout the team. Haiti countered repeatedly as the Americans struggled to hold possession and string together passes. The Caribbean side, in fact, was clearly the better team in the first half and could have taken the lead if not for poor finishing. Prost Amerika Soccer's Scott W. Nicholls describes Honduras' performance as "really unconvincing":
At half-time, Klinsmann changed the formation to a 4-2-3-1 and brought on Gyasi Zardes for the ineffective Altidore. The latter move paid off quickly, with Zardes setting up Dempsey for the game-winning goal, with an excellent pullback from the left side of the box.
The formation change paid off as well. Bradley moved into a freer role, with Diskerud playing deeper. As SI.com's Liviu Bird noted on Twitter, the Americans appeared much more comfortable in possession:
Haiti continued attacking to the end, causing the U.S. defense problems throughout the 90 minutes. That will be a concern for Klinsmann moving forward, because later opponents likely won't be as wasteful as Haiti were on Friday.
But it might be unwise to criticize Klinsmann too harshly. Sure, the 4-3-1-2 was a mess, and the squad looked disjointed following so many changes. But the U.S. had only two days to recover from the Honduras game, and it made some sense for Klinsmann to rotate his players against Haiti following a tough matchup in the opener.
Most importantly, the U.S. won the match and, in doing so, clinched first place in the group. Klinsmann still has time to sort out his best XI and formation, and with the group having already won, more experimentation could be in store for the game against Panama on Monday.
Honduras, Panama settle for draw
Honduras scored a late equalizer—and very nearly pulled off an even later win—to secure a 1-1 draw with Central American rivals Panama in the day's first match.
Points were at a premium for both sides ahead of kickoff. Honduras played well but came away with nothing in a loss to the U.S. in their opening match, while Panama could only draw with Haiti.
Los Canaleros bounced back well in the first half against Honduras, taking a deserved lead in the 21st minute through Luis Tejada. Gabriel Gomez took a free-kick short to Armando Cooper, who sent in a cross shot from the right flank. The ball deflected to Tejada, who chested it in from close range.
Honduras pulled level in the 81st minute as Andy Najar converted on the rebound after Jaime Penedo pushed his penalty onto the crossbar. Los Catrachos then had two big chances to win it in stoppage time. Samuel provided insight regarding the Honduras vs. Panama matchup:
In the 93rd minute, Quioto blasted over the bar from close range. One minute later, Eddie Hernandez had a goal ruled out for offside.
Neither team will be fully pleased with the result. Panama now head into the final group match against the U.S., with two points, and will likely need a good result to advance to the next round.
Honduras have only one point and will more than likely need to beat Haiti in the final group game to advance.