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FOXBOROUGH, Mass (July 11, 2009) — A 24-yard blast from Stuart Holden in the second minute of stoppage time provided an young U.S. squad with a dramatic 2-2 draw with Haiti this evening at Gillette Stadium to clinch first place in Group B and move on to the quarterfinals of the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Holden also assisted on the game’s opening goal in the sixth minute by Davy Arnaud, but Haiti answered back with two goals in a three-minute span at the start of the second half. The U.S., which controlled play for large spans of the game, was finally rewarded when Holden uncorked his perfect strike into the upper right hand corner.

With the draw, the U.S. extended their 25-game unbeaten streak in group play all-time at the Gold Cup (23-0-2) and a 56-game unbeaten streak at home against CONCACAF opponents.

Next up for the U.S. will be a quarterfinal matchup on Saturday, July 18, in Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, against either Jamaica, Mexico or Panama depending on Sunday’s Group C results.

“When you begin the tournament, your goal is to win the group and advance,” said U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Bob Bradley. “The first thing that we said after the game is that we’ve accomplished that goal.”

With only three players on the roster that were part of the U.S. MNT’s impressive showing at the FIFA Confederations Cup, Bradley went into the Gold Cup knowing it was an opportunity to provide a number of younger players with experience at the international level. After back-to-back victories in their opening two group games, Bradley went to his fairly inexperienced bench, as six starters against Haiti made their first career start, including four who earned their first-ever cap: goalkeeper Luis Robles, defender Jay Heaps and midfielders Sam Cronin and Colin Clark.

“I think when you look at everything, it is a good experience for these players. After the fact, you can look at things and understand that it will help them down the road. I think we had some stretches in the game where we were pretty solid. We had a number of guys who made plays where they kept the ball alive, got a cross in, helped regain possession, and all those things led to Stuart scoring a goal to equalize. I think there were some good things, but when you look at the consistency of the whole game, it would fit with the fact that this is a group that hadn’t been there before.”

The U.S. got a quick start when Sam Cronin found Holden in a hole in the midfield. He took one touch before slipping a pass between two defenders and into the path of Arnaud, who curled his run behind the Haiti center backs. The striker controlled the ball and deftly cut back to his left before tucking his shot underneath a charging Jean Zepherin to record his first career goal in four appearances.

The U.S. used pace and organization to stifle the Haitians throughout the opening 20 minutes, keeping the speedy Haiti strikers off balance. In the 21st minute, Heaps, who earned his first cap at the age of 32 and in front of his hometown fans, skied for a near-post corner but his header sailed over the bar.

Holden, who scored his first international goal starting as a right midfielder in the Gold Cup opener last Saturday (July 4) against Grenada, nearly had his second in the 28th minute. He unleashed a rocket from 35 yards that Zepherin touched just enough with this right hand to see it slam off the underside of the crossbar and bounce just in front of the goal line.

Almost immediately Haiti marched up the other end and nearly leveled the score. Fabrice Noel found space in front of the U.S. defense and hammered a stinging effort at Robles, who pushed the ball into the air at the first attempt, but was forced to recover well before the ball popped behind him and into the goal, diving backward to palm the ball off the line to safety.

Haiti had a great chance to level the score just before the halftime break, when Leonel Saint-Preux forced the ball from Michael Parkhurst in a bad position near the U.S. endline. Saint Preaux cut the ball back across the box to the far post, where Noel’s shot was well-saved by Robles coming across the goal. Noel’s follow-up effort was blasted into the side netting, and the U.S. took their one goal advantage into halftime.

However, just 44 seconds into the second half, Saint-Preux forced Heaps to stumble along the right sideline and was able to get a free cross to the far post. The pass sailed close to the endline and over Robles, where Parkhurst lost Vaniel Sirin and he headed the ball into the open net from close range. The goal ended a 748-minute shutout streak for the U.S. in group play at the Gold Cup.

Haiti didn’t slow down and grabbed the lead three minutes later. Again Saint-Preux gave Heaps trouble on the left side of the U.S. defense and Robles came off his line to try to help, but a poor clearance by Heaps landed at the feet of Mones Chery nearly 30 yards from goal. Chery took one touch before unleashing a stunning drive that sailed unto the upper corner before Robles could make it back into position.

The U.S. found itself trailing in a group play matchup at the Gold Cup for just the second time in the last seven tournaments and for the first time since Cuba scored first in a 4-1 U.S. win on July 7, 2005. In the hopes of igniting a comeback, Bradley went to the bench in the 63rd minute, bringing on Kyle Beckerman for Santino Quaranta and Charlie Davies for Kenny Cooper.

With Haiti bunkered and looking to counter attack for the remainder of the match, Davies had two of the USA’s best three chances before Holden’s goal. In the 69th minute he sent a shot wide as Haiti’s Pierre Bruny shoved him just off balance, and in the 86th minute Arnaud found Davies with a left-footed pass to the near post, but Davies volley after settling with his chest was blocked by a crashing defender. Between the Davies effort, Cronin put a long-distance shot wide of the post in the 76th minute.

Just into the second minute of stoppage time, Brian Ching checked back 30 yards from goal to get the ball, and as he tried to turn Judelin Avesk tapped the ball away but right into the path of Holden, who chased down the ball 24 yards from goal and crushed a first-time shot that came back inside the near post and left Zepherin helpless.

Prior to trailing Haiti for 43 minutes, the U.S. had only trailed for a total of 35 minutes combined in group play in the last eight tournaments going back to 1996. Overall, the U.S. had previously only been down a goal for a total of 105 minutes across five matches in group play at the Gold Cup.

Haiti, one of two CONCACAF teams with a winning record against the U.S. with a 6-5-5 record, required stoppage-time heroics by the U.S. to earn a tie for the second-straight meeting. On March 13, 2004, a Danny Califf goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time tied the last meeting between the sides at 1-1 in Miami.

– U.S. Men’s National Team Match Report –

Match: United States vs. Haiti
Date: July 11, 2009
Competition: CONCACAF Gold Cup – Group Stage
Venue: Gillette Stadium – Foxborough, Mass
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
Attendance: 24,137
Weather: 70 degrees, sunny

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA                        1 1 2
HON                       0 2 2

USA – Davy Arnaud (Stuart Holden)           6th minute
HAI – Vaniel Sirin (Leonel Saint-Preux)     46
HAI – Mones Chery                                   48
USA – Stuart Holden                                  92+

USA: 18-Luis Robles; 21-Brad Evans, 12-Jimmy Conrad (capt.), 14-Michael Parkhurst, 6-Jay Heaps; 20-Santino Quaranta (5-Kyle Beckerman, 63), 10-Stuart Holden, 15-Sam Cronin, 13-Colin Clark (11-Brian Ching, 76); 17-Kenny Cooper (9-Charlie Davies, 63), 22-Davy Arnaud
Subs not used: 1-Troy Perkins, 2-Heath Pearce, 3-Clarence Goodson, 7-Robbie Rogers
Head Coach: Bob Bradley

HAI: 18-Jean Dominique Zérphirin; 3-Frantz Gilles, 6-Frantz Bertin, 13-Pierre Bruny (capt.), 19-Vaniel Sirin; 15-Ednerson Raymond, 12-James Marcelin, 8-Judelin Aveska, 14-Mones Chery; 9-Leonel Saint-Preux (16-Markorel Sampeur 84), 11-Fabrice Noel (23-Abel Thermueus, 79)
Subs not used: 1- Peterson Ocennat, 4- Paulin Jean, 5- Lesly Fellinga, 10-Robin Jerome, 7-Brunel Fucien
Head Coach: Jairo Rios

Stats Summary: USA / HAI
Shots: 14 / 10
Shots on Goal: 4 / 7
Saves: 5 / 1
Corner Kicks: 8 / 4
Fouls: 15 / 10
Offside: 0 / 7

Misconduct Summary:
USA – Davy Arnaud (caution)            27th minute
USA – Michael Parkhurst (caution)     31
USA – Kyle Beckerman (caution)       80

Referee: Walter Quesada (CRC)
Assistant Referee 1: Leonel Leal (CRC)
Assistant Referee 2: Ricardo Morgan (JAM)
Fourth Official: Walter Lopez (SLV) Man of the Match:
Stuart Holden