Jordan Morris takes aim at World Cup spot with selfless outing for US

TAMPA, Fla. – Jordan Morris knows he can’t control whether he’s on the plane to Russia for the World Cup next summer.

But he’ll do everything in his power to put himself in position. Wednesday night on a wet track in Tampa, that meant making the often-unheralded near-post run.

“I can’t worry about making the World Cup team or my roster spot or things beyond my control,” Morris said after bagging the first brace of his international career in the US national team’s 3-2 victory over Martinique. “What I can do is make the runs coach stresses, do what’s best for the team, and play hard, impact winning.”

After a first half where Arena said his team “wasn’t sharp” in the final third, Morris said Arena went back to a common point of emphasis: having one forward sacrifice himself by surging towards the near post to create space around him.

“Bruce stresses that he wants a forward to make a near post run and sacrifice to make space,” Morris said of his opening goal. “I did that, and then [Eric] Lichaj played a great ball.”

It’s a run Cristian Roldan has seen his Seattle Sounders teammate make time and time again, playing off Clint Dempsey for the defending MLS Cup champions.

“Every coach wants a forward to attack the near post, but sometimes that’s just a space-creating run,” Roldan said. “Jordan does that all the time and it was good to see him get the goal, especially on a play that started from the left side and was just good ball movement. We rotated it all the way out right and Eric played a beautiful ball.”

Morris also delivered when the team needed him most, and again because he finished a run.

Following a stunning Martinique equalizer on a rebound from Johan Audel, the US appeared on the verge of another disappointing draw. But Morris took a ball in the center of the park and played it on the ground through to Gyasi Zardes. Sensing space in the box, he shouted and waved for Zardes to play the ball back to him.

“Gyasi made a great run and I saw space at the PK spot and attacked the space. [Zardes] made a great pass and we got a big goal.”

While Morris is right that he can’t control whether he makes a World Cup roster, his performance garnered praise from the one man who can: Arena.

“Jordan runs very well in the penalty area,” said the USMNT coach. “We told the guys at halftime we needed to attack the near post and he responded. Then he finished another run for a second goal. He had an overall good game tonight with Juan [Agudelo]. It definitely made a good impression.”