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2015 Gold Cup - Day Four Review & Day Five Preview

Waking the Red recaps all the action from fourth day of the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup and looks ahead to Day Five

"While I strongly disagree with your decisions, I respect that you are in a difficult situation and must go with what you feel to be the correct call"
"While I strongly disagree with your decisions, I respect that you are in a difficult situation and must go with what you feel to be the correct call"
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Day Five saw the Gold Cup pick back up from the top, with another pair of Group A matches as the four teams returned to the pitch for their second matches of the group stage in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

Up first was a fiery clash between Central American rivals Honduras and Panama.

The Hondurans lost on opening day, falling 2-1 to the USA, while Panama were upset by a surprising Haitian side, drawing 1-1.

On Friday night, the two engaged in a contentious meeting, drawing 1-1 themselves, but not without a moment of controversy or two.

The better of the early chances fell the way of Panama – Anibal Godoy saw his free-kick tipped over the bar by Honduran keeper, Donis Escober, while Gabrial Gomez' free-kick was pushed wide five minutes later.

Los Canaleros
would turn that advantage into a lead in the 20th minute after a debatable foul call when Blas Perez went down under the slightest of pressure.

Gomez stood over the ensuing free-kick, opting for a bit of trickery over a shot at goal. He found Amando Cooper streaking into space on the right, playing a low ball to his teammate, whose cross into the middle deflected off a recovering defender. The service spun up towards the keeper, Escober, who got a hand to the redirect, only to see his swat carom off the chest of Luis Tejada into the back of the net for the opener.

Honduras had one good chance to level in the first half when Carlos Discua arrived unmarked at the back-post to get on the end of a cross from the right, but Jaime Penedo came up with a huge save to preserve Panama's lead.

The ire of the Hondurans was further heightened in the first minute of the second half when a possible penalty-worthy foul in the box – Cooper was tripped up in the area – was waived away. Their frustration would grow ever more in the 66th minute when a goal was ruled offside; even if it was the correct decision.

In a similar position to the one that saw Panama score, Honduras applied the same tact, opting to hit a free-kick low and square, rather than at goal. The pass was hit to Mario Martinez and his left-footer struck off the face of the crossbar, falling to Eddy Hernandez, who converted the rebound, only to be denied by the raising of a flag.

It was Panama's turn to express some outrage at the officiating in the 78th minute when Andy Najar was felled in the area by the outstretched leg of Cooper. Complaints were vociferous, though fully unjustified, delaying the restart as the teams chattered and shoved; Panama refusing to clear the box so the kick could be had.

Najar ignored the jibes, composing himself for the penalty, but the delay had an effect; his right-footer was hit to the right of Penedo, but was left a little too close and at a good height for the keeper.

Penedo would get a piece, touching the attempt onto the bar, but Najar was the first to react, tucking in the rebound with his left-foot, as the Panamanian defenders, still fuming, were left stationary, tying the match in the 81st minute.

Three minutes later Panama would again feel aggrieved as a long ball out of the back sprung Abdiel Arroyo, only for a scything challenge from the last defender, Maynor Figueroa, to cut him down just outside the box. The protests ensued, though it is unclear whether they wanted a penalty or a red card for the denial of a goal scoring opportunity, but either way, they would be disappointed: the foul was outside the area and the card was merely yellow (and didn't even go to the fouling defender, rather to one of those involves in the post-whistle shoves).

And after all that, the free-kick would be hit uselessly into the wall.

Spared conceding the point they had just achieved, Los Catrachos would squander a glorious chance to take all three when Romell Quioto horribly skyed a wide open chance at the back-post when a cross from the left fell to him unmarked.

In the 95th minute, the Hondurans thought they had won it when Hernandez touched in the rebound from a Martinez shot – Hernandez gave Penedo a hearty shove as he got up to celebrate – only for the offside flag to again, correctly, discount his efforts.

The match would end 1-1, each side bitter at not getting the better of their opponent, while keeping the group table wide open for the next match.

Regrettably, the match highlights are unavailable for some peculiar reasoning – should that change, they will be embedded.

Shortly thereafter, the second match of the day would get underway with hosts, USA, welcoming Haiti to a less-than-packed stadium in New England.

The Americans had narrowly eked out an opening round win over Honduras, while Haiti proved they would be no pushovers with that draw against Panama.

And Les Grenadiers would give as good as the got on the night, going toe-to-toe with the highly-favoured Americans, holding them off and threatening on the counter at every possibility.

That said, the first major act of the game would be a blow to the Haitians hopes of progressing as Jean Alexandre, an influential midfielder, would pick up a yellow card in the 24th minute for tripping up Clint Dempsey. It was his second booking of the tournament, and so he will be unavailable for their third match on Monday.

The Stars and Stripes, as expected, bossed large passages of the game, but failed to really craft a breakthrough. In fact, it was the Caribbean side that found the better chances, such as when Wilde Donald Guerrier whisked a shot wide of the far-post in the 36th minute.

Tied heading into the half, it was the US who would emerge to take the lead, striking inside the first minute, as they caught Haiti napping with a quick move up the left.

Greg Garza chipped a ball down that side for Gyasi Zardes, who raced towards the end-line before pulling a ball back towards the top of the area, where the in-form Dempsey arrived to right foot across the keeper to the right-side of goal – it was his third goal of the tournament, scoring each and every of the US goals.

Stung but not discouraged, Haiti would have several chances to respond in the remaining 44 minutes.

Brad Guzan was forced into a huge save on Duckens Nazon in the 57th minute; Nazon would collect his own rebound, but could only find the outside netting. Guerrier then wasted another good look, sending a header wide from a left-sided cross out of Kim Jaggy, failing to direct his effort inside the far-post.

It then fell to centre-back Tim Ream to preserve the American lead, coming up with a huge block in the 80th minute.

And the match would end 1-0, the US winning a second straight match, despite not really impressing.

With the second series of fixtures in the books, the US tops Group A with a pair of wins, sitting on six points and a plus-two, while Panama, who drew both their matches, have two points and a zero goal-difference. Both Haiti and Honduras have a single point, drawing by the same scoreline against Panama and losing to the US by a single goal – Honduras' scoring of an additional goal sees them hold the tie-breaker between the countries; for now.

The group will be decided next Monday in Kansas City, Kansas when Haiti and Honduras face off in the opener before Panama and the US duel in the second. The US has already assured they will advance, so the contest is for second and one of the two third-place spots.

But first, the action moves to Group B on Saturday with another pair of exciting encounters in Houston, Texas.

The day kicks off at 6:30 pm ET when Jamaica faces Canada – both sides drew their openers, 2-2 against Costa Rica and 0-0 against El Salvador, respectively – while Costa Rica and El Salvador meet in the night cap at 9 pm ET.