Gold Cup Final: Morris Bails Out U.S. With a Late Goal

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By JACK BELL

Gold Cup logoThe United States avenged a semifinal loss to Jamaica in the 2015 semifinals when Jordan Morris scored a late goal to give the American team a 2-1 victory in the final of the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup before more than 63,000 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Wednesday night.

The win gave the U.S. its sixth Gold Cup title since the tournament took its current form in 1991. In addition, the U.S. remains unbeaten (9-0-5) since Bruce Arena took over as coach from Jurgen Klinsmann last November.

The U.S. had the first real chance of the game when Jozy Altidore cranked a rocket from 35 yards in the 19th minute that forced goalkeeper Andre Blake to make a diving save and then react to push aside a follow up attempt by Kellyn Acosta. Blake, who had been one of Jamaica’s strongest players in the tournament, sustained a hand injury on the play and had to be replaced by Dwayne Miller.

Minutes before halftime, it was Altidore who gave the U.S. the lead. Michael Bradley was fouled about 30 yards from the goal in the middle of the field. Altidore nailed the free kick, curling his shot into the near, upper corner just out of the reach of Miller. Could Blake have stopped that shot? We will never know.

Fewer than five minutes into the second half, Jamaica put its first shot on goal and scored its first goal. Kemar Lawrence sent a bending corner kick from the right flank to the far post where Je-Vaughn Watson shook off the marking of Morris to slam a right-footed volley past the diving Tim Howard. The goal ended the U.S. shutout streak that stretched more than three and a half games in the tournament.

Incessant U.S. pressure for the go-ahead goal was nearly undone in the 74th minute when Jamaica broke out on a counterattack. A cross was deflected in front of the U.S. goal by defender Graham Zusi and just skipped wide as Howard screamed at his static defenders.

In the 76th, Clint Dempsey, an early second-half sub for Acosta, put a header on goal that was tipped into the far post by Miller.

With 30 minutes of extra time looming, the substitute Gyasi Zardes sent a cross into the middle that was headed out, but not clear by Jamaica defender Damien Lowe in the 87th minute. Morris pounced on the loose ball and struck a right-footed shot past Miller and the U.S. was scant minutes away from claiming the championship.