Haiti unites for Gold Cup push

Haiti (pictured) comes together after the CONCACAF Gold Cup win over Honduras on July 13, 2015, in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo: Mexsport)

KANSAS CITY, Kansas – Rallying for a draw against Panama in the opening match of the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup was significant for Haiti.

But it was a hard-fought 1-0 loss to the United States in the second Group A match that provided the impetus for Les Grenadiers to push past Honduras and into the quarterfinals for the first time since 2009. Ironically, a 2-2 draw against the United States in the final group stage match of that tournament also helped Haiti advance past the group stage.

“The U.S. game gave us more confidence. That’s why we won this game,” midfielder James Marcelin said. “With the U.S. game, we said we could go for it because the U.S. is one of the best teams in the world right now, beating a lot of big teams.”

The 1-0 win over Honduras, combined with a 1-1 draw between the United States and Panama, clinched second place in the group for Haiti. In fact, Duckens Nazon’s second goal of the tournament was the Haitians’ first goal against the Catrachos in three all-time Gold Cup meetings.

“I didn’t even know that,” Marcelin said, when told of the statistic. “Whatever happens right now we’ll enjoy the moment and we’re going to work hard for the next game.”

Haiti certainly opened the eyes of United States soccer coach Jürgen Klinsmann for its effort.

“Big compliment to Haiti, huge compliment to Haiti how they played this game,” the German remarked. “It was a very intense game that could have changed any second. They grinded it all the way to the end, with us as well.”

After the 1-1 draw with Panama, Marcelin wanted Haiti to “wake up out of this dream” and focus on the game against the United States. In aftermath of the encounter against the defending champion, a potential nightmare was in the making as captain Jean Jacques Pierre and Jeff Louis left the squad.

Rather than that development becoming disruptive ahead of the all-important meeting with Honduras, it brought the remaining Haitian players even closer together.

“Whatever happened with the guys that left, we became more powerful because everybody wants one thing – to qualify for the next round,” Marcelin stressed. “We just prayed and we’re going to work hard for the next game.”

The next game will be in Baltimore against Jamaica, which finished atop Group B. Whatever happens in that match, Les Grenadiers have already made the people of Haiti proud.

“For Haiti, the population that’s waiting for us right now, it means a lot for them,” Marcelin finished. “Soccer is flying the flag everywhere for Haiti.”