Jordan Morris scores his first international goal against Mexico in 2015. (Soobum Im/USA TODAY Sports)
With the United States and Mexico preparing for their World Cup qualifier in Mexico City, FrontRowSoccer.com looks back at some of the most memorable matches between these two archrivals. Today, is another dos a cero match.
By Michael Lewis
SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Forward Jordan Morris will always remember the Alamodome.
After all, that’s where the 20-year-old Stanford University student scored his first international goal Wednesday night.
Juan Agudelo will remember that indoor stadium as well.
After all, that’s where he tallied his first international goal in four years.
Their goals powered the United States to yet another dos a cero result — 2-0 against its CONCACAF archrivals Wednesday night, in front of the capacity crowd of 64,369 in yet another chapter of the Border Clash between these two fierce CONCACAF rivals on April 15, 2015.
“I was nervous but I was excited,” Morris said. “It’s something I’ve dreamed of since I was a little kid, scoring a goal, especially in such a big game in front of so many fans.”
A sophomore at Stanford University, the 20-year-old Morris was believed to have been the first college player to start for the USA in at least two decades. Besides the satisfaction of scoring against the USA’s most hated foe, Morris received a gift from midfielder Michael Bradley for his accomplishment — a Mexican pennant which was given to the USA captain by Mexico in traditional pre-match ceremonies.
With the Americans’ top two forwards out — captain Clint Dempsey had a hamstring injury and Jozy Altidore served a one-game suspension for a red card in a recent international friendly, USA head coach Jurgen Klinsmann decided to throw Morris into the deep end of the pool.
“You say, ‘Why not give him a chance?’ ” he said. “He trained very well. We see his improvement.”
Morris passed the test swimmingly, although he was a bit nervous during pre-match shooting drills.
“When Jordan was doing his shooting before the game, he was pretty much missing everything. I told him, ‘Just relax. It’s OK,’ ” Klinsmann said. “To see a boy like Morris score his first international goal, you jump for joy.”
Just as Morris did four minutes into the second half, punching the air in jubilation as he scored off a busted play.
On Saturday, Morris scored the final goal in a 3-0 win in front of perhaps 100 fans against Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo.
On Wednesday night, he grabbed the spotlight before packed house.
“It’s a big atmosphere,” he said. “The speed of play is faster. You’ve got to adjust a little.”
Especially in a USA vs. Mexico atmosphere.
“I never played in an atmosphere like that,” Morris said. “It was tough to adjust to it at first, but I’m happy I got the chance that I was able to put it away.
“I dreamed about since I was a little kid, scoring a goal, especially in such a big game in front of so many fans. It was unbelievable. It was such an emotional time. … I honestly don’t think it’s really hit me it.”
Bradley wound up starting both goals, playing the ball into the middle of the Mexican defense to Gyasi Zardes, whose return pass deflected off defender Mario Osuna into Morris’ path. He took a touch and slipped a 10-yard shot under sliding goalkeeper Cirilo Saucedo for a 1-0 lead.
“It just kind of popped out,” Morris said. “I’m happy that when I got the chance, I got to the ball and put it away.”
Agudelo, who returned to the U.S. national team after a year’s absence, replaced Morris in the 65th minute and it did not take him long to make his presence felt. Only seven minutes later, Bradley launched a long ball to Agudelo, and the 22-year-old New England Revolution forward ran across the top of the box before drilling a shot that went off Saucedo and into the back of the net for a 2-0 advantage.
It was Agudelo’s third international goal in 19 appearances and first since scoring against Argentina on March 26, 2011.
“It’s funny. The day before. Me and Jurgen spoke,” he said. “He believed that I should shoot more with my club team. I saw myself closer to the goal. I wanted to take an opportunity and the play went in.”
Beyond scoring, Agudelo was just elated returning to the national team. The last time he played was exactly a year ago — vs. Ukraine on April 15, 2014.
“It was a big deal,” he said of returning to the team. “As soon as I saw the email that I was going to be called back, that was a big deal. Just to come in and be able to help the team out to come out with a little more cushion after the game was important.
Agudelo said his latest experience “was a lot of fun.”
“It’s crazy to just put on that jersey and to be running around and hearing a whole nation on your back, wearing a beautiful jersey.
“I don’t know if I would get the same chance in coming camps. I just made the most out of it.”
Agudelo will return to the Revolution for the team’s game at the Philadelphia Union on Sunday.
Morris? He will return to school to continue his spring soccer season and of course, studies at Stanford, probably Thursday or Friday.
U.S. Soccer wanted to name Morris man of the match, but there was one slight problem. The award is sponsored by Budweiser. Morris is 20, a year under the legal drinking age.
Instead, that honor went to center back Ventura Alvarado, who is 22 and who also played well.
If Morris plays his cards right and scores a few more goals, he could be eligible for man of the match honors in the not-too-distant future.