Jordan Morris scored in the 89th minute to snap a 1-1 deadlock and lift the United States Men’s National Team to a 2-1 win over Jamaica in the Gold Cup final at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. It was the USMNT’s sixth Gold Cup title and a bit of redemption for Morris, who lost his man early in the second half, allowing Jamaica to tie the game.
Jozy Altidore opened the scoring just before the break with a delectable free kick, only to see Je-Vaughn Watson equalize five minutes after halftime. But Morris rescued the U.S. just moments before extra time would have been needed to settle the tournament.
Bruce Arena went with the same lineup from the 2-0 win over Costa Rica in the semifinals. Tim Howard got the usual start in goal behind a back line of (L-R) Jorge Villafana, Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, and Graham Zusi. The midfield starters were (L-R) Darlington Nagbe, Michael Bradley, Kellyn Acosta, and Paul Arriola, with Jordan Morris and Jozy Altidore up top.
Jamaica countered with Andre Blake in goal, a back line of Kemar Lawrence, Jermaine Taylor, Damion Lowe, and Alvas Powell. The starting midfield was Oniel Fisher, Ladale Richie, Je-Vaughn Watson, and Owayne Gordon, with Darren Mattocks and Romario Williams up top.
The first half started with a couple of half chances for the Americans. The ball fell for Nagbe at the top of the box in the second minute but he couldn’t get a shot off. A minute later, an Arriola cross was cut out just before it could reach a teammate in the six-yard box.
The game changed for Jamaica in the 19th minute. Altidore found some space above the box and crushed a shot on goal. Blake made the stop and also denied Acosta’s attempt on the rebound. But on the follow-through of his shot, Acosta’s boot caught Blake’s hand and there was a delay as the training staff came on to attend to the Philadelphia Union star keeper. Unfortunately, Blake was unable to continue and Dwayne Miller had to be subbed on for arguably the Gold Cup’s best player in the 23rd minute.
Jamaica finally got a decent chance in the 38th minute, when Mattocks made a superb run down the left off a Zusi turnover. He cut into the box but had the ball knocked out for a corner just before he could get his shot away.
The U.S. continued to probe forward and a series of deflections and fouls in the final third wasted some pretty buildup play. In the 40th, Acosta had the ball fall at his feet at the top of the box in nearly the exact same spot Nagbe had it in the early going, but he couldn’t pull the trigger in traffic and lost the ball. It was that kind of half for Acosta on the offensive end.
Jamaica’s next opportunity came at 43’ when Lawrence took a long-range free kick but it was right to Howard.
The end of the half belonged to the Yanks. Bradley got into space and was fouled above the box in the 44th minute and the USMNT finally made the Reggae Boyz pay for their fouls. Altidore stepped up and, with a short approach, crushed a curling free kick over the wall toward goal. Miller got a touch to it but he couldn’t stop Jozy’s diving missile and the Yanks had a 1-0 lead in the 45th minute.
It was Jozy’s third career goal against Jamaica and his 39th overall in 108 caps with the USMNT.
Moments later, the halftime whistle blew and the Yanks took their lead to the break after an opening period in which they dominated possession against a Jamaica side that seemed content to let them have it.
But just five minutes after the break, the Reggae Boyz struck back. Morris fell asleep while defending Watson on a corner kick. Lawrence delivered a gorgeous back-post ball to Watson, who slipped past Morris and volleyed it past Howard to tie the score in the 50th minute. It was a shock goal and it took a while for the USMNT to recover.
Arena sent on Dempsey for an ineffective Acosta in the 55th and the U.S. started to settle down a bit, although Jamaica got the first half chance after Deuce came on. Williams got down the right for Jamaica and fired from a tight angle but it was a comfortable stop for Howard.
Seconds later, Villafana crossed in for Arriola in the box but he hit his header right at Miller. Arriola showed up down the right two minutes later but left his wicked cross too close to the Jamaican keeper.
The U.S. took a couple of corners in the 66th minute, trying to create something against Jamaica’s backup keeper. His first attempt looked to be an Olimpico but Powell headed it behind for a second corner. The follow-up was buzzed to the near post but Miller was first to the ball.
Morris sprinted in behind down the left in the 68th and had some options in the box but his cutback pass for Altidore was too far behind the Toronto FC striker and Arriola took a heavy touch on it atop the box.
Gonzalez came close in the 71st on another U.S. corner but Bradley’s delivery was a bit off line. The defender did well to get his header toward goal with pace but it was just wide, and Miller appeared to have it covered anyway. Two minutes later, Morris stepped into a shot but Miller was there to make the save.
The Reggae Boyz nearly stole the lead in the 74th. Off a corner kick, the Jamaicans broke down the pitch with pace. Fisher fizzed a cross into the box that deflected just wide off Zusi — a near own-goal.
Dempsey nearly broke his career record tie with Landon Donovan in the 75th minute. Villafana sprayed a cross into the box and Deuce got a solid header on it. But Miller got a diving fingertip on the ball and pushed it off the left post and the ball somehow stayed out.
As extra time and potentially penalties loomed, the U.S. nearly made something out of nothing in the 86th minute. Dempsey scuffed a low free kick, which ended up laying in the six-yard box. Morris couldn’t get his feet set to shoot and ended up lightly tapping a weak effort off Miller. The Sounders striker recovered the ball to the left of the goal but couldn’t get his cross through the Jamaican traffic.
But the Yanks finally broke through in the end. Second-half sub Gyasi Zardes sent in a cross in the 89th minute that deflected off Dempsey and bounced straight to Morris, who blasted it into the net for the game-winning goal.
From there it was a matter of killing off three minutes of injury time. Jamaica fashioned only one half chance before the final whistle — a drive by Williams from about 25 yards away that stayed off target.
Moments later, the Yanks were celebrating and preparing to get their champion medals.
The USMNT will be back in action Sept. 1 vs. Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena in World Cup qualifying action.