By James Louis-Charles
A disappointing result for the Grenadiers on Friday night in Costa Rica as they fell 0-1 against Los Ticos to open the fourth round of the 2018 World Cup Qualifications for the CONCACAF region. Here’s an analysis of the Grenadiers’ performance at the Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica.
Coaching and Strategy: C
In World Cup qualifying matches and in a Home and Away format, the most common strategy for teams who wish to survive for another day is to aim for a tie in Away matches and to win at Home. There is no doubt that under Marc Collat as coach Haiti has improved on defense and seems to be using a strategy of defending well and using counter attack to score. This is the strategy that got Haiti to go to the knockout round in the Gold Cup, and just like in the Gold Cup the attacking part still needs some work.
A 5:4:1 strategy against Costa Rica was way too defensive. Haiti’s defense was lucky to not have been broken on more than a few occasions in the first half alone. If you take into account that Costa Rica also played with a similar formation, the only difference between them and us is that our strategy was to play defense and to keep at zero for as long as possible, while theirs was to score and to score a lot to ensure a win.
Haiti could have been a little bit more offensive and could have surprised Costa Rica in much the same manner we surprised the U.S. last summer. If Haiti is not able to mount any serious attack, we will not make it pass this round. The knock on us after all is that if you score early on Haiti, it is hard for us to come back because our offense is not a threat to anyone.
What are the odds that Johny Placide would make another blunder against Costa Rica that almost resemble the one that he made on November 11, 2011 against Antigua & Barbuda that eliminated us from the 2014 World Cup qualifiers?
To be fair it wasn’t the same type of mistake as the one against Antigua and Barbuda was more controversial considering it was the only shot on goal they got and there was more on the line as that game pretty much eliminated us. There is no doubt; however, that Placide could have done better on the shot that led to Costa Rica’s lone goal. It was his only mistake in a game that he really kept us in it by himself. Still at this level, small mistakes are costly against good teams and Haiti is not yet at the level to compensate for those types of errors.
Inserting two new players on defense on a team they barely knew might have been costly. Granted, Genevois is a good player in the French highest league and is the type of player that we need in Central Defense. But how much training did he get to mesh with his new teammates?
With the absence of James Marcelin and LaFrance, the most logical answer was the tall and physical Hillaire at the Defensive Midfield position. We had a defense that did the job in the last Gold Cup, and perhaps we should have stick with the same characters if it works. At the very least, we should have had a few friendlies with those two new players to make sure everything is fine.
Still, having said all that, there is a saying in soccer that if you are a team that only plays defense, it is only a matter of time before any good teams find the key to breaking that defense.
Defense can’t only be our strength.
In the few chances that we got in the first half, they came mostly from our outside backs crossing the ball to our lone target Nazon. The defensive midfielders couldn’t connect on most of their passes. The attacking midfield wingers, Alcenat and Guerrier, were running a lot but with no clear intent of what to do. Guerrier continues his practice of shooting the ball off target at this level, which is also not good.
In the 2nd half, the game changed a little with Mustivar and Jeff Louis. It was a bit more offensive but still lacks cohesiveness. More importantly, it was too late.
Nazon is not the answer at the sole point position in the attack. He might have surprised some people last GC with that wonderful 1v1 goal against Panama but his secret is out for all to see. He is good when he has to take on one defender and has room to work with, but he is not so good at holding the ball for his teammates, which is what the sole striker position requires. Too often he took on the whole defense by himself and lost the ball, while the better option might have been to hold it and wait for support.
Interestingly enough, Belfort has the same issue when he came in for Nazon. Both Nazon and Belfort seems to play well together though, which is why a 4:4:2 might be a better formation for us.
Jeff Louis added another dimension when he came in as a withdrawn striker / attacking midfielder, but he too is too individualistic and relies too heavily on his powerful left-footed shot.
Haiti is too one dimensional, which is we rely too much on a good defense with the hope of a decent counter attacks for strategy.
What to expect against Jamaica?
Now we have a potential BIG problem. If it is indeed true that Genevois was only with us to play one game in this round of WCQ, which is the one against Costa Rica, who exactly is going to play defense against Jamaica? Jean Jacques Pierre is seemingly hurt as he finished the Costa Rica match on one leg, and Hillaire is also out with an injury. Both new players are defenders who are tall in Genevois and Hillaire, and they could have been of help for us against the more physical Jamaicans. That leaves who exactly on defense or defensive midfield?
It is a home game for us, which means we will go for the win based on the formula of going for the win at home. Beside, we won’t have much of a choice considering the personnel who is injured but to go in attacking mode. But guess what? Jamaica too will also go for the win because they lost their first home match in WCQ against Panama, and also because they have our numbers lately. Seemingly, all of these factors will make for a highly offensive match on Tuesday November 17th. The question is, what kind of an “offensive” match will it be for us?