Jordan Morris celebrates his goal in the 88th minute that lifted the U.S. to the Gold Cup crown. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Not many players have an opportunity to get some redemption by lifting their team to a championship.
Jordan Morris found himself with that chance in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final Wednesday night.
A mistake by the young forward while marking a Jamaica player cost the United States the equalizing goal, but Morris made up for it by connecting for the game-winner in a 2-1 victory at Levi’s Stadium Wednesday night.
The Seattle Sounders striker fired home a feed from 14 yards from his club teammate, second-half sub Clint Dempsey, before 63,032.
The U.S. secured its sixth Gold Cup crown, also earning trophies in 1991, 2002, 2005, 2007 and 2013 as head coach Bruce Arena became the first coach to win three Gold Cup titles.
“They’re all good. They equally as good,” Arena said. “You never want to take away from one team to another.
“If you had asked me in November if this is where we would be with the program, I’d probably say, I don’t think so.”
Morris showed some great resilience by putting some poor marking behind him. He allowed Je-Vaughn Watson score off a corner kick by Red Bulls left back Kemar Lawrence in the 50th minute, negating Jozy Altidore’s 25-yard blast in the 45th minute.
“I was nervous. It was my guy that scored on the goal, so I was trying to make up for it any way that I could,” Morris said. “Obviously. I take responsibility for that. But luckily I could put one in the back of the net.”
With time running out, the 22-year-old striker put his best foot forward to secure victory and another championship for himself. Within the last 18 months, the former Stanford University standout also won an NCAA Division I crown and an MLS Cup title.
His Seattle Sounders FC teammate, second-half substitute Clint Dempsey, slotted him a pass as he fired a 14-yard shot past reserve goalkeeper Dwayne Miller into the upper right corner in the 88th minute.
“It was like a dagger in the heart,” Jamaica head coach Theodore Whitmore said.
Morris, on the other hand, showed a lot of heart to battle back from his error.
“I didn’t like the mistake on the corner kick,” Arena said. “To hang in there and play well and get the goal that made the difference in the game is encouraging. He’s a young player with a lot of talent. He’s going to continue to grow. He’s a player who certainly has a future.
“Those kind of moments are important for a player. That’s a big step he took tonight.”
Miller was in the nets because of an injury suffered by No. 1 keeper Andre Blake, who captured Golden Glove honors as the No. 1 keeper in the competition. Blake was forced from the match with an injured right hand in the 23rd minute.
In the 19th minute, Altidore fired a 25-yard shot that Blake knocked away with both hands. A scramble ensued as Kellyn Acosta snapped a shot that the keeper blocked again as the U.S. midfielder stepped on Blake’s right hand. The ball glanced off the right post before center back Damion Lowe cleared it out of harm’s way.
Miller, who hadn’t played a minute in the tournament up until that point, replaced Blake, who had given up only two goals in five-plus games.
The first half essentially was a midfielder’s duel as both sides tried in vain to penetrate each other’s defense as Jamaica combined a tenacious defense and a counterattack in an effort to overcome the U.S.
After Jamaica’s Romario Williams fouled Michael Bradley, Altidore drilled a 28-yard free kick over a four-man wall and the outstretched right hand of Miller into the upper left corner in the final minute of the opening half.
The goal forced the Jamaicans to come out of their shell and attack.
Five minutes into the second half, Lawrence, who tallied the winning goal in Sunday’s 1-0 upset of Mexico, swung the ball to the left post. Je-Vaughn Watson beat Morris, volleying the ball past keeper Tim Howard to equalize.
At times it felt that Blake was still in the game because Miller was magnificent. He grabbed Paul Arriola’s header from the right side of the penalty area in the 63rd minute, doing his best imitation of Blake by parrying away Morris’ 18-yard attempt in the 73rd minute and swatting Dempsey’s header off the left post in the 75th minute.
USA – Jozy Altidore 45th minute
JAM – Je-Vaughn Watson (Kemar Lawrence) 50
USA – Jordan Morris (Clint Dempsey) 88
USA: 24-Tim Howard; 19-Graham Zusi, 3-Omar González, 5-Matt Besler, 2-Jorge Villafaña; 20-Paul Arriola (9-Gyasi Zardes, 76), 23-Kellyn Acosta (28-Clint Dempsey, 55), 26-Michael Bradley (capt.), 25-Darlington Nagbe (13-Dax McCarty, 90+2); 8-Jordan Morris, 27-Jozy Altidore
Subs not used : 12-Bill Hamid, 4-Matt Miazga, 7-Chris Pontius, 10-Joe Corona, 15-Eric Lichaj, 16-Justin Morrow, 18-Juan Agudelo, 21-Matt Hedges, 29-Jesse González
Head coach: Bruce Arena
JAM : 1-Andre Blake (13-Dwayne Miller, 23); 2-Kemar Lawrence, 21-Jermaine Taylor, 4-Ladale Richie (17-Kevon Lambert, 87), 3-Damion Lowe, 5-Alvas Powell; 8-Oniel Fischer, 15-Je-Vaughn Watson, 18-Owayne Gordon; 22-Romario Williams, 10-Darren Mattocks (11-Cory Burke, 90)
Subs not used: 23-Damion Hyatt, 6-Segio Campbell, 7-Shaun Francis, 2-Rosario Harriott, 12-Michael Binns, 9-Ewan Grandison, 19-Ricardo Morris, 16-Jermaine Johnson, 14-Shamar Nicholson
Head Coach: Theodore Whitmore
Stats Summary: USA / JAM
Shots: 13 / 6
Shots on Goal: 8 / 3
Saves: 2 / 6
Corner Kicks: 6 / 3
Fouls: 13 / 20
Offside: 1 / 5
JAM – Darren Mattocks (caution) 31st minute
USA – Kellyn Acosta (caution) 37
JAM – Ladale Richie (caution) 57
USA – Graham Zusi (caution) 76
USA – Tim Howard (caution) 90+2
Referee: Walter López (GUA)
Assistant Referee 1: Gerson López (GUA)
Assistant Referee 2: Hermenerito Leal (GUA)
Fourth Official: Ricardo Montero (CRC)