Jordan Morris (right) got the USA started in the second minute. (Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)
ORLANDO — The U.S. men’s national team didn’t only talk a good game, the Americans played a pretty decent one Friday night.
Still feeling the sting of the 2-0 upset loss to Canada Oct. 15, the USA bounced back with a 4-1 triumph over the same same team in the Concacaf Nations League at Exploria Stadium Friday night.
The victory moved the Americans (2-1-0, 6 points) within three points of first-place Canada (3-1-0, 9) in League A, Group A. The Canadians are finished with their group schedule, while the USA can surpass their neighbors to the north with a win over Cuba (0-3-0, 0) in the Cayman Island Tuesday. The U.S. has a better goal differential than Canada (plus eight to plus six).
Gyasi Zardes scored twice, one in each half for the Red, White and Blue as Jordan Morris and Aaron Long also found the net.
The USA established their supremacy, striking three times in the opening 34 minutes before a disappointing crowd of 13,103.
What was more impressive was the fact the USA played without two key starters who were injured — midfielder Christian Pulisic, the team’s best player and goalkeeper Zack Steffen.
In contrast to the 2-0 disaster in Toronto, the USA showed much more energy, especially in the opening back.
It took barely two minutes for the Americans to celebrate their first goal off a corner kick. The ball was played out to Sergiño Dest, making his USA debut. Dest found Morris, just off Seattle Sounders FC’s MLS Cup final win Sunday, as the striker half-volleyed the ball home past goalkeeper Milan Borjan for a 1-0 edge.
The hosts were just warming up. In the 23rd minute, they doubled their lead, using some nifty passes while taking advantage of some room. Paul Arriola brought the ball down the right flank before finding Morris on the left side. Morris then crossed the ball to Zardes, who headed home from four yards.
The third USA goal was set up by a former Red Bulls center back and scored by a current one.
Tim Ream, playing right back for the USMNT, sent a free kick on the left side to center back Aaron Long. Long headed it in for a 3-0 advantage in the 34th minute.
In the 43rd minute, a strange play occurred when Canada defender Alphonso Davies scooped the ball up with his foot in the penalty area and headed it to Borjan, who handled the ball. While goalkeepers are allowed to handle the ball in the box after a header, players aren’t allowed to create a header; it must come naturally.
An indirect free kick in the area was awarded to the USA, but nothing came of it.
The Canadians pulled one back in the 72nd minute as Steven Vitoria headed home a deflection of a corner kick past keeper Brad Guzan.
After the USA played a rather lackluster second half, Zardes added his second score in the 89th minute.