Group A Notebook: July 15, 2015

Haiti's Duckens Nazon (pictured) celebrates after a CONCACAF Gold Cup win over Honduras on July 13, 2015, in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo: Mexpsort) 

KANSAS CITY, Kansas – The minnow of Group A is swimming to the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals.

Haiti entered the tournament as an underdog in a quartet that featured defending champion United States, 2013 runner-up Panama and 2013 semifinalist Honduras. Yet, when the smoke cleared, Les Grenadiers finished second to the United States with four points and advanced to the quarterfinals for the third time in six tries.

To do so, Haiti defeated Honduras for the first time in three all-time group stage matches, winning 1-0 at Sporting Park on Monday evening.

“Amazing. It was great, wonderful from everybody who did a great job,” midfielder James Marcelin said. “We worked hard on the field and our objective was to win the game.”

Haiti coach Marc Collat said when he saw the draw in Philadelphia, he was “very worried.” No doubt, the inability to play many friendlies to prepare for the tournament didn’t make him feel much better.

But Haiti opened eyes when it rallied for a 1-1 draw against Panama and then earned some accolades with a hard-fought 1-0 loss to the United States.

When Haiti arrived in Kansas City on Saturday, they did so without two key players as captain Jean Jacques Pierre and Jeff Louis remained in Boston.

“Haiti is a small soccer nation and a lot of the European teams who neglect the selection, putting pressure on the players to maybe not accept the selection,” Collat noted. “That was the case with Jean Jacques Pierre, who returned to his club. In the case of Jeff Louis, the situation is slightly different. He did really assume his role as a substitute. He did not really enjoy that and he decided he would not stay.

Facing adversity, Haiti bonded closer as a unit and earned respect, and a quarterfinal berth, by beating Honduras thanks 21-year-old Duckens Nazon’s second goal of the competition.

“There’s a saying that the most beautiful victories usually come out of pain,” expressed Collat. “This definitely was one of those.”

Pinto apologizes for Honduras exit

After three consecutive trips to the Gold Cup semifinals, Honduras failed to advance to the knockout stage for the first time since 2003 following a 1-0 loss to Haiti on Monday night.

Honduras head coach Jorge Luis Pinto, who guided Costa Rica to 2014 FIFA World Cup quarterfinals, considers it growing pains for a fairly young squad. He saw growth and positives, but it was a painful exit from the tournament nonetheless.

“To begin, I’m sorry. I feel ashamed by this result. I’m here because I have a commitment with the press to come and speak, but I feel ashamed,” Pinto expressed after the defeat. “There were some good things, but we didn’t score the goals we needed to score. In the end, it hurts and I’m sorry for the country, for the directors and players, the media and the fans. This is how soccer goes sometimes.”

Panama awaits its fate

For a third consecutive game, Panama squandered a lead and was forced to share the points in a 1-1 draw with the United States on Monday night.

Head coach Hernan Dario Gomez, though, has liked what he’s seen from his squad throughout the group stage.

“The team played good football, proactive football and I think the team was true to their style throughout the group phase,” Gomez said. “We attacked, we went forward, we tried to overcome our opponents with some good football. I think we’re on a good path. Every day the team is getting better.”

Quote of the day United States coach Jürgen Klinsmann on advancing to the quarterfinals:“Now it’s really getting to the serious stuff – knockout stage. This is what a tournament is all about. Now you want to go from the next to the next and end in Philadelphia.”