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U.S. MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM

July 11, 2009
NARROW ESCAPE
Holden’s late blast salvages 2-2 US draw with Haiti

By Michael Lewis
BigAppleSoccer.com Editor

Stuart Holden's stoppage-time goal lifted the U.S. into a 2-2 draw with Haiti.
Stuart Holden's stoppage-time goal lifted the U.S. into a 2-2 draw with Haiti.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Midfielder Stuart Holden helped the U.S. National team avert a major upset and embarrassment against Haiti Saturday night.

Holden fired a 28-yard shot into the upper right corner to lift the U.S. into a 2-2 draw with the Haitians in the CONCACAF Gold Cup at Gillette Stadium.

Holden took a pass from Brian Ching on the right side and launched the shot past goalkeeper Jean Dominique Zephirin with precious time running out in the Group B match.

The tie gave the Americans (2-0-1, seven points) the Group B title with a quarterfinal confrontation against either Jamaica, from Group A, or Panama or Mexico from Group C. The Americans' opponents will depend on Sunday's Group C results.

The U.S. extended its Gold Cup group match unbeaten streak to 25 games (24-0-1). The Americans last lost in the Cup to Brazil, 2-1, on July 23, 2003.

The Haitians struck twice in the opening four minutes of the second half to turn a one-goal deficit into a 2-1 advantage.

With the second half but 45 seconds old, Leonel Saint Preaux sent in a right-wing cross to Sirin Vaniel, who headed the ball past goalkeeper Luis Robles at the far left post for a 1-1 deadlock. It was the first goal the U.S. had allowed in group play in the Gold Cup in 747 minutes.

Only three minutes later, Mones Chery launched a 32-yard blast that hugged the upper left corner of the goal to give the Caribbean side an improbable 2-1 lead.

The Americans already had qualified for the quarterfinals in Philadelphia next Saturday. They needed at least a tie to clinch first place in the group.

It didn't take long for the U.S. to find the back of the net. Holden sent a through-ball to an onrushing Davy Arnaud. The Kansas City Wizards player beat goalkeeper Jean Dominique Zephirin, who had come out of the net, with a left-footed shot to the lower left corner from 12 yards.

The U.S. almost doubled its lead in the 29th minute as Holden launched a 30-yard blast that hit the crossbar.

Barely a minute later the Haitians came close to equalizing as Fabrice Noel sent a shot that goalkeeper Luis Robles managed to block with both hands. However, the ball continued toward the goal and Robles had to slap it out of harm's way.

A major U.S. breakdown in the penalty area almost gave Haiti a goal two minutes into first-half stoppage time. Sirin Vaniel fired a point-blank shot that Robles blocked at the near right post. The ball went back to Vaniel, who shot just wide right.

Five American players made their international debuts -- Robles, defenders Jay Heaps and Brad Evans and midfielders Colin Clark and Sam Cronin. Heaps was the oldest U.S. player in the lineup. He turns 33 on Aug. 2.



   
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