CONCACAF Gold Cup Group A wrapped up its schedule Monday evening with a doubleheader at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas.
In the first game, Haiti claimed a surprising 1-0 victory over Honduras to qualify for the quarterfinals. In the late match, the United States fell behind in the first half but clawed back in the second for a 1-1 draw against Panama.
Here are the key takeaways from Day 7 at the Gold Cup.
USMNT still unbeaten but still unconvincing
The U.S. finished Group A unbeaten and in first place following a 1-1 draw with Panama, but coach Jurgen Klinsmann will have concerns about his defense ahead of his side's quarterfinal match on Saturday in Baltimore.
Panama controlled the first half and took a deserved lead through Blas Perez in the 34th minute. Both U.S. center backs were to blame for the goal. Luis Tejada—who replays showed was offside earlier in the move—turned Ventura Alvarado easily with a dash to the end line before passing to Perez in the middle. Perez had slipped free from John Brooks, whose positioning was poor, and the Panama man had the simplest of tap-ins.
The sequence was troubling for the U.S. because, after starting together twice in the group stage, Alvarado and Brooks appear to be Klinsmann's first-choice pairing at center back. But Brooks drew a yellow card in the match and will have to sit out the quarterfinal through suspension.
Under ordinary circumstances, losing a first-choice center back would be a negative for any team. But while Brooks and Alvarado both improved in the second half, neither has performed particularly well for a full 90 minutes at this tournament. For Saturday's quarterfinal, Klinsmann could opt to start Tim Ream or Omar Gonzalez, or call in a player from the provisional roster such as Matt Besler.
Whatever Klinsmann decides, he will be hoping the U.S. can carry over some of the momentum from the second half, in which the Americans improved significantly. Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin entered as substitutes at halftime, and Dempsey's introduction in particular gave the U.S. a spark.
The equalizer came in the 55th minute, after Dempsey and Gyasi Zardes combined well along the edge of the box. A fortunate bounce took the ball to Alejandro Bedoya, who picked out captain Michael Bradley's late run to the back post with an excellent cross. With his first touch, Bradley slammed the ball into the net for the tying goal.
Combined with an improved defensive performance from Brooks and Alvarado, the goal meant the U.S. had enough to see out a draw. The Americans will now head into the quarterfinals unbeaten but still unconvincing in their three performances. No matter who the opponent is, Klinsmann will be hoping for an improved performance over 90 minutes from his side.
Panama will have to wait for results to see if it qualifies as one of the two best third-placed teams. With three points, Los Canaleros have a strong chance to reach the quarterfinals.
Haiti claim unexpected quarterfinal place
Few would have predicted Haiti to advance to the quarterfinals after receiving a difficult draw in Group A along with the U.S., Honduras and Panama. But Les Grenadiers have done just that after defeating Honduras 1-0 on Monday.
While that result might have been unexpected by most observers, it was entirely deserved. Haiti controlled the match from kickoff, set a fast tempo and scored the game's only goal in the 14th minute. It was route-one football, with Kervens Belfort heading down a long pass into the path of Duckens Nazon. Holding off a defender on the right side of the box, Nazon bounced his shot past Donis Escober for what turned out to be the winner.
The win meant Haiti finished Group A with four points, having also drawn with Panama. Les Grenadiers lost their other match, 1-0 to the U.S., but performed well even in defeat. With plenty of speed and skill sprinkled throughout the roster, Haiti will be capable of giving any opponent problems in the quarterfinals.
Honduras, on the other hand, will head home after a disappointing exit from the tournament. The Central Americans played well in an opening loss to the U.S. before giving up a late equalizer to Panama in their second game. Against Haiti, Los Catrachos were too slow and too predictable, and never looked like they'd find a way to win.
After reaching the World Cup last year, Honduras must view this group-stage exit as a major letdown. The squad has talent, especially in winger Andy Najar, but in the end, the performances were not good enough to qualify from a tough group.