Soccer

Canada set to play undermanned Haitian squad missing 7 players due to COVID-19

Canada will face a depleted Haiti at the Gold Cup on Thursday with seven Haitian players sidelined by COVID-19.

Canada will face Haiti on Thursday

Canada opened up the Gold Cup tournament with a 4-1 win over Martinique on Sunday. (TIM VIZER/AFP via Getty Images)

Canada will face a depleted Haiti at the Gold Cup on Thursday with seven Haitian players sidelined by COVID-19.

Haiti dressed just 17 players Sunday in a 1-0 loss to the U.S. after five players and one assistant coach returned positive test results.

Coach Jean-Jacques Pierre said Wednesday that two more players were unavailable.

"We took the measures necessary every time we learn something to protect the rest of the group and continue to prepare [for] this competition," Pierre said through an interpreter in a virtual availability.

Canada coach John Herdman was sympathetic to Haiti's plight.

"It's not easy to actually live those [COVID] protocols. It's difficult for players," he said. "And again, once the virus is in an environment, it's very hard to contain. We're fortunate here. We have a lot of medical staff, people that are focused on it. But I know some teams, they just don't have the depth of resources."

"I do feel for Haiti. They've lost some good players. One thing I know about Haiti is they always show up. It doesn't matter who's on the pitch. The passion, the pride, the battle always comes. The critical part for us is the mentality of not falling into that trap of taking this Haitian team lightly. I don't think you can take any Haitian team lightly."

Haiti captain Ricardo Ade showed that defiance.

"There are people affected by COVID but we remain concentrated and motivated," he said through an interpreter.

"We will fight [Thursday]. With a victory we will make the people of Haiti smile again," he added.

Herdman said all of his players will be available Thursday with the exception of Ross County midfielder Harry Paton, who is still working his way through COVID protocols arising from time with his Scottish club.

The 70th-ranked Canadian men defeated No. 83 Haiti 4-0 on aggregate when they met in a two-legged CONCACAF World Cup qualifying series last month. Canada is 9-2-2 all-time against Haiti, with one of the losses a 3-2 defeat in the 2019 Gold Cup quarter-finals — a game that saw the Canadians blow a 2-0 lead.

Canada, which downed unranked Martinique 4-1 in its opening match Sunday, wraps up Group B play Sunday against the 20th-ranked Americans. All of Canada's group matches are at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.

'It's a game we must win'

While Canada showed composure in recovering from conceding a 10th-minute goal to Martinique, it received six cautions along the way. A second yellow against Haiti would force the likes of Stephen Eustaquio, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Steven Vitoria, Liam Fraser, Lucas Cavallini and Alistair Johnston out of the U.S. game.

"It's really a tricky situation," said Herdman. "But I think it's a game we must win. You know if you win that second game, it puts you in complete control. Typically it puts you in the quarterfinal and it allows you to make those considerations in Game 3, although Game 3 is the U.S., which I'm sure every man will want to play in that.

"We'll put the best team out there tactically to win the game and 'que sera, sera' — whatever happens in that match will happen," he added. "We need to make sure we get the result and we're comfortable before we can start thinking about yellow cards and rotating."

Frantzdy Pierrot, who scored three goals in 11 minutes in Haiti's preliminary-round 4-1 win over Bermuda, was among those who did not dress against the U.S. Pierrot, who plays for Guingamp in France's second-tier, has four goals already at the tournament.

Haiti's Duckens Nazon, whose last club was Belgium's Sint-Truiden, did play against the Americans. Canada will remember Nazon, who scored the opening goal and set up the third in Haiti's comeback win against Canada in 2019. He has three goals at this tournament.

The Canadians did not help their own cause in the 2019 loss. The first goal conceded came from a poor back pass while the second was from the penalty spot. Alphonso Davies lost the man he was marking on the third goal.

A potential late tying goal by Atiba Hutchinson, off a Davies free kick, was called offside.

Former Vancouver Whitecap Bryan Silvestre, now with the USL's Miami FC, helped keep Haiti in the game against the U.S. with several big saves. The six-foot-five keeper, a former U.S. youth international, is a product of the Whitecaps residency program.

The CONCACAF championship, which features 16 teams including 2022 World Cup host Qatar as a guest entry, runs through Aug. 1 across the U.S. Haiti had to survive the tournament's preliminary round, defeating St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Bermuda, to reach the main field.

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