The 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup ended the way many soccer pundits and fans predicted.
For a sixth time, it was a Mexico-USA final, with Mexico defeating the United States 1-0 at Soldier Field in Chicago on July 7.
What fans and experts did not see coming is the resilience and grit of a soccer team from the small island nation of Haiti making its first Gold Cup semifinal.
One of the players that had an integral role in Haiti’s historic run was former Coastal Carolina University forward Frantzdy Pierrot.
“It is a dream come true to play for the country that I was born in,” Pierrot said. “When we put on that jersey, we are not playing for ourselves, we are playing for our country. No matter what is going on, people will stop and watch us.”
Pierrot played for the Chanticleers from 2016-2017, scoring 18 goals in 41 games. He was named the 2017 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, and Pierrot was a major reason Coastal won back-to-back Sun Belt Tournaments.
He made his international debut on Sept. 10, 2018, in a 13-0 win over Sint Maarten. Pierrot started in Haiti’s Gold Cup opener against Bermuda on June 16 and despite being down at the half, the former Chanticleer would not let up and scored twice in a 12-minute span to give Haiti a 2-1 lead with just under 25 minutes to play.
“It wasn’t easy in the beginning,” Pierrot said. “I had a few chances that I missed, but I was able to get back into the game and focus.”
Haiti would hang on to win that game against Bermuda what would be their first-ever Gold Cup opener.
With a 2-0 win versus Nicaragua and a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Costa Rica, Haiti saw their side win their group, another first for them in the Gold Cup.
Winning the group meant that Haiti would be paired in the quarterfinals with a talented Canada squad that featured 2015 MLS Rookie of the Year Cyle Larin, Bayern Munich upstart Alphonso Davies and a former English Premier League player in Scott Arfield.
The odds were heavily against Haiti and it looked as if the dream was going to come to an end after going down 2-0 within the first 30 minutes of the game. However, much like they did against both Bermuda and Costa Rica, the Haitian side capitalized on some major defensive errors and managed to edge out a 3-2 win and advance to their first-ever Gold Cup semifinal.
Following the monumental win, people in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, flooded the streets to celebrate. Pierrot was glad to see the joy that he and his teammates were bringing to their country.
“[Soccer] means everything to them,” he said. “Everyone is watching us. Even if someone doesn’t have cable, they will find a way to watch us. You can tell the impact we had on everyone and how proud we made them. It’s definitely a good feeling.”
Martin Melchor, who was a teammate of Pierrot's during his time at Coastal Carolina, was able to travel to NRG Stadium in Houston to support his former teammate.
“It was an exciting game and I was happy to be there for him,” Melchor said. “I texted him after the game basically saying that even though he didn’t get his goal, he did what he needed to do to help his team out.”
Haiti’s run came to an end on July 2 after a 1-0 loss in extra time against Mexico.
Looking back at how the past few weeks have played out for Pierrot, the former Chanticleer credits his alma mater in preparing him mentally for the international stage.
“Coastal taught me how to get in the right mindset and how to let things affect me,” he said. “The coaches there made us fight for everything and it paid off in the end because it helped me get ready mentally for the big moments.”
With Pierrot’s name being mentioned throughout the broadcasts, that also meant that Coastal Carolina University was referenced a few times.
Coastal Athletics Director Matt Hogue said Pierrot’s performance during the Gold Cup was significant not only for the school’s soccer program but for the university as a whole.
“Frantzdy’s appearance for Haiti and that of other former student-athletes provides immeasurable brand recognition for Coastal Carolina University which can lead to tangible interaction with the university,” Hogue said. “Their success and that of any CCU alum showcases the impact and value of the university and helps provide a rallying point and passionate connection for everyone who is a part of Teal Nation.”
Following his Gold Cup performance, Pierrot now returns to Belgium to play for his club Royal Excel Mouscron. Pierrot signed a three-year deal with the club and played in 35 matches and scored eight goals. He hopes to build off the success and the lessons he learned while with Haiti at the Gold Cup and use it to succeed on the pitch for Mouscron in the 2019-2020 season.