Haiti was favored to beat St. Kitts and Nevis in the opening round of games in Group B of the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship, but a 5-1 trouncing was perhaps more than was expected of Les Grenadiers.
It was a performance that largely exploited nervous defending by the Kittitians. The Haiti U-20s are the Caribbean champions at this level and a justifiably confident outfit. But beating St. Kitts was always thought to be well within Haiti's capabilities. The USA will present a sterner test. Les Grenadiers are the favorites to beat any other Caribbean team, but to qualify for the U-20 World Cup they will likely need to beat a couple of teams from other parts of CONCACAF. A win over one of the overall tournament favorites would see Haiti take a big jump up everyone's list of potential qualifiers for the World Cup.
The USA meanwhile is seeking to recover for a shocking stumble in its tournament-opener. Against an unfancied Panama, the Americans seemed destined for victory after Panama's Justin Simons was sent off in the 18th minute for a bad tackle on Tyler Adams. But the New York Red Bulls' midfielder was forced to sub out in the 30th minute, and Panama did not lie down after losing a man.
It's not looking good for Adams' participation in the rest of the tournament.
Leandro Avila scored something of a wonder-goal in the 37th minute, and the USA never found an adequate reply. Panama won, 1-0.
Losing to 10-man Panama was not expected of the USA. Losing to Haiti isn't either, but one might consider Haiti a more confident and capable attacking team (at least until it plays Panama and the two teams get to settle any question of their relative strength on the field).
A win for Haiti would qualify Les Grenadiers for the next round of the tournament, and might eliminate the USA depending on the result of the Panama-St. Kitts game that precedes this one.
It's an early must-win for the US U-20 MNT: not just to protect its place in the competition but to restore its credibility as one of the favorites to win it.