Outplayed by Haiti, Americans are fortunate to gain 1-1 draw.
(Saturday, March 13, 2004) -- Thank you Peter Prendergast.
The Jamaican referee that Americans love to hate since his phantom hand-ball call cost the United States two points in World Cup qualifying a number of years ago, was kind to the U.S. tonight. He disallowed one Haiti goal and then tacked on a mind-numbing five extra minutes of stoppage time in which Danny Califf scored the tying goal in a 1-1 draw at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Fla.
The record book will say the U.S. did not lose this match, but anyone who saw it knows better. Simply put, the Americans were simply awful for about 85 minutes. To its credit, Haiti came out and attacked, and had all the best chances in the first half. Was it not for Prendergast's questionable decision disallowing Haitian forward Jean Phillipe Peguero's goal in the 38th minute and a couple of good saves by Jonny Walker, the U.S. could have gone into the lockerroom trailing by a couple of goals instead of tied 0-0 at halftime.
U.S. manager Bruce Arena took the opportunity of playing a lesser opponent at home to do some experimenting. Most of the experiments did not work.
He started Carlos Bocanegra as a central defender with Cory Gibbs on the outside, the reverse of where the two played against the Netherlands in Amsterdam. Although both have often played those positions, neither looked comfortable tonight.
Bocanegra is playing outside for Fulham in England and it now seems to suit him better. Gibbs seemed unsure of himself and was often out of position.
John Wolyniec started at forward and worked hard, but did not have a very skillful match. Most of the time he had little help. The Haitian back line, big and physical, was organized rarely challenged for most of the match.
The U.S. started the match brightly, seeming to put many players in the mindset that it was inevitable a couple of goals would soon be forthcoming. Resultantly, the Americans stopped working hard.
The U.S. was simply outhustled and outplayed in the midfield. There was little cohesion or communication in the middle. Often, when the U.S. defense controlled the ball, the midfielders did not make themselves available to receive passes, leaving defenders either to pass the ball among themselves or to boom it upfield with little result.
Haiti took advantage of a completely disorganized U.S. defense to score its goal. Ante Razov had just come into the match for defensive midfielder Chris Armas, Cory Gibbs was caught upfield when Haiti defender Wasdon Coriolan sent a pass through on his right side. With no one covering for Gibbs and no defensive midfielder in place, Alexander Boucicot was able to run onto the ball and to put an angled shot past goalkeeper Kevin Hartman from about 15 yards out.
What is pretty clear is the U.S. will need its European-based when CONCACAF World Cup qualifying starts in June. Depending on Major League Soccer players, as was the case tonight, is too risky, even against Grenada, which likely will be the Americans' first-round opponent. (Grenada defeated Guyana 5-0 in the opener of a two-match preliminary qualifying series. If tonight's Americans are among MLS's best, the Haiti's first division must be vastly underrated.
On the other hand, tonight also showed that Jamaica had better not take Haiti for granted when the two meet in a two-match series in the first round of qualifying.
U.S. player ratings:
Goalkeeper Jonny Walker - 6.5: A sparkling 45 minutes. Made two great saves and was composed behind a shaky defense.
Defender Cory Gibbs - 4.5: Was often out of position pushing too far forward and leaving flank exposed. Plays better in the middle.
Defender Carlos Bocanegra - 5: Not one of his stronger matches. Did not communicate well and often did not provide cover for Gibbs.
Defender Eddie Pope - 5.5: Played well enough against an extremely fleet Haitian front line. Was solid for the entire 95 minutes.
Defender Tony Sanneh - 5.5: Playing for the first time in 15 months was a big accomplishment. He is still a long way from the top of his game, but did not embarrass himself.
Midfielder Chris Armas - 4.5: Disappeared for most of the hour plus he played. Did not provide a link between the defense and the rest of the midfield.
Midfielder Steve Ralston - 5: He did not get the ball very often, but also did not make himself available enough.
Midfielder DaMarcus Beasley - 5.5: About the only U.S. starter who seemed willing to take on opponents, but was often muscled off the bal. Needs to learn that one against three doesn't usually work.
Midfielder Bobby Convey - 5.5: Continues to work very hard. Showed good range, but did not work well with those beside him.
Forward Landon Donavan - 4.5: Another poor match. Is said to be "tired" and played like it. Mentally, was never in the game.
Forward John Wolyniec - 5: Brought energy, but not a lot of skill to the match. Worked hard, but received little support. When he had opportunities, his first touch let him down too often.
Goalkeeper Kevin Hartman (46th minute for Walker) 5: Might have been able to do more to stop the goal, but really can't be faulted. Was not a commanding presence, but certainly competent.
Defender Chris Albright (46th minute for Sanneh) - 5.5: Turned in a nice defensive half. Did not push forward much, but was not beaten and was never out of position.
Forward Ante Razov (66th minute for Armas) - 6: Had the two best U.S. shots, denied both times by terrific saves. Provided a late spark. Made a statement that, at least with this group, he should be a starter.
Midfielder Richard Mulrooney (74th minute for Donovan) - 5.5: Played hard over the final minutes which helped turn things around.
Defender Dan Califf (75th minute for Pope) - 6: His goal was opportunistic and he did fine defensively though not put under much pressure.
Midfielder Pat Noonan (75th minute for Ralston) - 5: In his first cap, he added some energy, but did not have much of an impact.
Jovan Kirovski (83rd minute for Wolyniec) - 6: Had a significant impact in a brief appearance. . Pushed forward hard and disrupted the Haitian defense.