United States 2 Altidore 45’, Morris 88
Jamaica 1 Watson 50’
Oh, what a time to bring back Bruce Arena. The man who navigated the United States to 75 victories from 1998-2006 is returning at just the right moment. The USMNT haven’t lost a single one of the 14 matches since he’s returned to the touchline, winning nine and now adding a Gold Cup trophy.
In a fairly nondescript first half, the United States easily dominated possession. Jamaica, as they’ve done throughout this entire tournament, invited the Yanks to commit men forward in the hopes of launching a successful counter attack.
The Reggae Boyz, oh so brilliant at staying compact at the back, frustrated the American attempts to penetrate and connect with a final ball into the box. Showing next to no interest in getting forward, they were content to settle into the game and rely on their ability to defend against the best the hosts could throw at them.
Eighteen minutes into the match, the United States had racked up 70% of the possession, but had zero shots on target to show for it. Darlington Nagbe, growing frustrated with the inability to get into Jamaica’s box, blasted a shot toward the goal but it sliced wide and harmlessly away for a goal kick.
Then, in the 19th minute, the game would take it’s first turn. Jozy Altidore found himself on the ball about 25 yards out. He smashed a shot on target, and Andre Blake, as he’s been doing in every match thus far, made a phenomenal save. However, the ball snuck away from him, and Kellyn Acosta saw an opportunity at a rebound, but instead caught the Jamaican goalkeeper’s hand with his right boot. Blake, writhing in pain, was attended to for about three minutes until he was inevitably subbed off for Dwayne Miller.
Even with the Reggae Boyz losing their captain and star keeper, the United States struggled to capitalize. A free kick here and there, a corner in the 35th minute, but the Yanks still could not get into the box or find a quality attempt on goal.
All that changed, however, with a completely unnecessary foul in the 44th minute. After a first half of brilliant defending, a challenge by Jamaican forward Romario Williams gave the United States the sliver of an opportunity they needed. Jozy Altidore confidently stood over the ball and curled in a beautiful goal, giving the United States a 1-0 lead just moments before halftime.
The monumental goal emphatically changed the course of the match. Jamaica, who had been more than happy to sit back and wait for their opportunity, now found themselves down a goalkeeper, down a captain, and down a goal.
Trust me, if there was something else to say about Jamaica in that first half, I would have. They literally did not attempt a shot, they lost their keeper, and allowed a goal from a set piece. Essentially the opposite of what they had set out to accomplish.
However, that quickly changed 5 minutes into the second half.
A seemingly harmless corner was conceded, and Jordan Morris had just a millisecond of complacency, and the game was 1-1. Je-Vaughn Watson directed the corner past Tim Howard and vaulted Jamaica back into the championship match.
Jamaica started playing with a new momentum. They were finishing challenges in a way they didn’t in the first half, fighting for every loose ball, and pressing even harder against the US back four.
Then came the move we all were waiting for, as Clint Dempsey came on in the 53rd minute.
At this point, the United States had controlled 71% of the game’s possession. It seemed like only a matter of time until they could pull ahead for good. However, there was always just enough class in the Jamaican side to feel like they could sneak a shot past Howard and pull the upset. It was developing into a true tactical battle between Arena and Theodore Whitmore.
With 18 minutes left, the United States ratcheted up their attack even more, pummeling the Jamaican goal with shots. But that’s just what Jamaica wanted — as they fought right back with a counter attack that nearly resulted in a Jamaica goal.
On 75 minutes, even more drama ensued, as Clint Dempsey finally found his chance, when he headed a shot towards goal, but it was saved by Miller and deflected off the post. 1-1 was still the score.
Ten minutes remained. The home crowd in California desperately wanted their winner. Jamaica just wanted to hang on.
Dempsey had another chance with about 5 minutes left, but the set piece was wasted and they couldn’t get the crucial goal.
Leave it late, you could say. Just the right moment, sure. Jordan Morris didn’t care what you called it. He waited in the box, the ball found his foot, and he stroked it beautifully into the back of the net. Finally, 2-1.
The United States would hang on to win their 6th Gold Cup all-time.
Bruce Arena stuck with Jordan Morris. He made the moves to bring Dempsey on late on a few occasions. He wasn’t scared to make the unconventional moves. Moves prior managers hadn’t, and wouldn’t. And he’s surely about to lead his team to the World Cup in 2018. We can’t wait!