Los Angeles (AFP) – Sam Vines scored in the first half on a fortunate bounce as the United States edged short-handed Haiti 1-0 on Sunday night in the opening game of the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup for both Group B teams.

Vines’ first career international goal came off a header in the eighth minute for the USA, who fielded a team of mainly backup players for the 16-nation tournament. 

A cross from Shaq Moore deflected off two Haitian defenders before popping in the air and right in front of Vines, who headed it in from six yards.

The Americans improved to 36 wins, one loss and four draws in the Gold Cup group stage.

The event lost some of its lustre as the 20th ranked United States opted to field a second-string team with most of the country’s Europe-based players rested.

Haiti came through the preliminary round with victories over St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Bermuda, but the side has been rocked by positive Covid-19 tests for five players and one assistant coach, according to CONCACAF, which said the team was “offered the necessary support.”

Elsewhere on Sunday, Canada romped to a 4-1 victory over Martinique.

Canada, stung by the loss of Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies to an ankle injury on the eve of the tournament, nevertheless had no trouble in their Group B opener in Kansas City thanks to goals from Cyle Larin, Jonathan Osorio, Stephen Eustaquio and Theo Corbeanu.

All came after Martinique opened the scoring in the 10th minute on a strike by Emmanuel Riviere.

Larin’s header put the Canadians back on terms in the 16th minute, Osorio fired them ahead in the 20th and Eustaquio’s 26th-minute strike saw them go into halftime with a 3-1 lead.

Corbeanu finished off the scoring in the 89th, the 19-year-old running onto a cross from Lucas Cavallini and firing home from close range before allowing himself a giddy goal celebration.

Covid-19 knocked Curacao out of the tournament before it started, an outbreak forcing them to withdraw. 

They were replaced by Guatemala, who lost their opener 2-0 to El Salvador in a Group A clash in Frisco, Texas on Sunday.

Mexico’s title defense got off to a rocky start on Saturday when they were held to a goalless draw by Trinidad and Tobago in Group A.

Less than 15 minutes in Mexico saw Napoli winger Hirving Lozano carted off the field after he took an inadvertent knee to the face in a collision with Trinidad keeper. 

The club confirmed Lozano was out for the tournament after undergoing “reconstruction work around his left eyebrow.”