Clint Dempsey bagged his third goal of the tournament as the United States booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Gold Cup here Friday with a 1-0 win over Haiti.
Dempsey, who scored twice in the USA’s 2-1 opening win over Honduras, was on target once more in the second half as the holders made hard work of defeating the Haitians.
The win assured Jurgen Klinsmann’s side of a place in the last eight before their final Group A game against Panama, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Honduras earlier Friday.
Dempsey’s winner was another sweet moment for the former Fulham striker, who was stripped of the USA’s captain’s armband before the tournament after he was banned for ripping up a referee’s notebook during a club match.
Klinsmann had opted for a new-look starting line-up following Tuesday’s opener against Honduras, making six changes to his side.
For much of the first half, the multiple changes showed, with the US giving a disjointed display against a physical Haiti.
Haiti defender Mechack Jerome might even have given his side the lead on 10 minutes, hitting the woodwork with a free-kick which had US goalkeeper Brad Guzan beaten.
Slowly but surely the Americans increased the tempo and started to exert pressure.
Klinsmann’s men were unlucky not to take the lead on 35 minutes when Holland-based striker Aron Johannsson scored with a low finish only for the goal to be ruled out for offside.
Replays later showed Johannsson was onside when Jozy Altidore played him in.
Captain Michael Bradley should have done better three minutes later, but scuffed his shot wide from around eight yards.
But the introduction of rising star Gyasi Zardes for Altidore at the start of the second half had an immediate impact.
The 23-year-old Los Angeles Galaxy striker’s pace soon had Haiti’s defense in trouble, and on 47 minutes he created the opener for Dempsey, cutting back a superb pass for the Seattle Sounders striker to finish.
Haiti responded bravely to the American opener however, and needed Guzan to be at his best to save well in the 57th minute when Duckens Nazon broke clear and shot.
Haiti continued to carve out promising chances but Guzan held firm in the American goal as the hosts clinched a quarter-final in Baltimore next Saturday against one of the two best third-placed sides.