The last time Haiti came to Nicaragua looking to qualify for Gold Cup, things did not go well for Les Grenadiers. Neither Haiti nor Nicaragua qualified for the 2017 Gold Cup via their respective regional qualifying tournaments, but they were thrown together in a lucky-losers playoff for the Caribbean and Central American teams that had fallen just short of making the four-team delegations to Gold Cup from their regional associations.
Haiti won the first leg of that playoff, 3-1, in Haiti. Haiti was still winning the series 3-1 on aggregate when the second leg ticked into its final 10 minutes. Then the game tilted decisively Nicaragua’s way. Juan Barrera bagged a penalty in the 82nd minute, then scored again in the 86th and 88th minutes. Haiti had been 10 minutes way from a Gold Cup berth and Nicaragua snatched it away.
This time around, there are 2019 Gold Cup berths to play for again: the top 10 teams in CONCACAF Nations League Qualifying will also qualify for next year’s regional showcase tournament.
In principle, subject to the outcome of other games, both Nicaragua and Haiti could finish in the top 10 of CNL Qualifying regardless of the result of this game. In practice, however, both teams would surely like to remain in control on their own destiny by picking up three points.
Both Haiti and Nicaragua have won their first two games of 2019-20 CNL Qualifying. Only one of them (or neither) can make it three in a row.
The New York Red Bulls’ Derrick Etienne has been a regular starter for Les Grenadiers recently and should feature. Haiti’s 2017 Gold Cup qualifying nemesis, Juan Barrera, should be part of this game too.