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Rapids’ Sam Vines scores game’s only goal in Concacaf Gold Cup win over Haiti

Vines joined Kellyn Acosta and Jonathan Lewis in starting XI on Sunday night

Soccer: CONCACAF Gold Cup Soccer-USA at TBD Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Rapids fans know that left back Sam Vines loves to go forward. In his fourth cap with the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT), Vines did just that early in the team’s first match of the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup Tournament.

In the 8th minute of play, Vines crept up the left sideline while the ball was brought up on the opposite side and found himself unattended into the 18-yard box. His defensive teammate, right back Shaq Moore, crossed the ball into the box and found attacker Gyasi Zardes, who flicked the ball up towards the streaking Vines. The Colorado Spring native forcefully spiked the ball with this forehead into the back of the net.

The score was not only his first international goal, but also the deciding goal in a tough — and at times, humdrum — victory for this fusion of new and seasoned Yanks.

The short-handed Haitian Les Grenadiers gave the Yanks a good challenge and could have played the role of an opening night spoiler if not for five of their leading players being out as a result of testing positive for COVID-19. An assistant coach was also ruled out due to a positive COVID-19 test.

The win puts the U.S. at the top of the Group B table. They are tied with Canada, who punished Martinique 4-1 in their opening match.

Prior to the start of this tournament, head coach Gregg Berhalter made it clear that the associated camp and forthcoming games will provide him and his staff the opportunity to evaluate a new pool of players, most with little competitive international experience. For many of his players, this tournament will offer high-level competition and the opportunity to mature, as both attackers, defenders, and as a cohesive unit.

Berhalter emphasized that in his post-match interview with members of the media. “I missed the urgency to score more goals and to be dangerous and make the first pass forward and aggressive, I feel like we still need to go to another gear. You could see we were a little rusty. The movements weren’t normally as clean as they normally were, and we didn’t create enough and we didn’t finish enough chances,” he said. “From that standpoint, there’s room to improve. But happy with the shutout, happy that we didn’t give up a goal, and happy to get the three points.”

“It’s about being patient,” he added. “It’s about learning. It’s about gathering information on the players and the way we can play with this group and then adapting. It’s going to be a great experience to have to do that... this has been a player pool that we’ve been working with for two years. There’s only a couple of guys that haven’t ever been involved with our program. So we hit the ground running.”

Soccer: CONCACAF Gold Cup Soccer-USA at TBD Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Kellyn Acosta continued to reinforce his claim to the midfield position. During the match, his unshakeable box-to-box play was evident from this starting whistle. He was involved in breaking up Haiti counter-attacks and was the main target when the Yanks attempted to move up the field.

While Vines did deliver a game-winning goal, he was not at the top of his game as a defender. At times he was exposed and had a difficult time managing Haiti’s swift forwards. And to sum up winger Jonathan Lewis’ performance: he had a very off night as a starter.

Berhalter intends to use the data collected here, along with insight he has gleaned from recent camps and matches, to select his 2022 World Cup Qualifying team before the U.S. opens qualification play on September 2 in El Salvador.

Team USA will resume their training camp tomorrow in metro Kansas City, then host Martinique on Thursday evening and Canada on Sunday afternoon.