Jordan Morris shines in decisive victory against Canada for US U-23s

Jordan Morris plays against Canada in Olympic Qualifiers

KANSAS CITY – The victory wasn't always pretty, but the margin was decisive for the U.S. Under-23 team in their Olympic qualifying opener. And coach Andi Herzog's MLS contingent – including one player long linked with the Seattle Sounders but who has yet to pull the trigger on turning pro – had a good deal to do with that.

Stanford forward Jordan Morris, paired in a dangerous striker combination with Stuttgart's Jerome Kiesewetter, opened his qualifying account with a brace in Thursday night's 3-1 win over Canada as the U.S. took the quick lead in Group A.

And the third goal came in second-half stoppage time from Real Salt Lake's Luis Gil after Kiesewetter was fouled in the penalty area. That sealed a victory that got a quick kick-start when Morris headed in Kiesewetter's cross just 34 seconds in.

“The first touch of the game is a goal,” coach Andi Herzog said in a post-match news conference. “That's not a bad first touch.”

Herzog paired the two up top to maximize Kiesewetter's offensive potential – even though he reflexively tracked back to win balls several times during the match – and the first play of the match showed the partnership to be a solid one.

“I started making my run towards goal, and I saw him look up to put the ball in the box,” Morris said during the news conference. “He put in a great ball. The goalie came out and kind of missed it a little bit, and it just hit me in the head. There was no goalie, so it went in. But all credit to Jerome. It was a great ball from him.”

Morris' second goal, for a 2-0 lead in the 73rd minute, came after an interception and a long ball over the top from the Columbus Crew's Wil Trapp as the Canucks came out of their defensive shell to push for an equalizer.

“They were compact and they were doing a great job, so all credit to them,” Morris said. “But Wil and I just kind of made eye contact and got on one of those quick transitions. He played a great ball over the top. It was right in my path.”

And with one lapse – an unguarded near post that let Canada pull one back off a corner 10 minutes from time – a young defense anchored by the U-20 tandem of Cameron Carter-Vickers and the New York Red Bulls' Matt Miazga – kept the Canucks from getting solid opportunities on goal for most of the night.

“Me and Cameron have a really good partnership and understanding of each other,” Miazga told reporters. “We've been playing for the past two years together. I think we played well together today.”

Herzog, who said earlier in the week that Miazga should be ready for his full national debut in a matter of months, offered the same assessment.

“They both are very young, but you can see they have a lot of quality,” he said. “I think overall they did a very good job. The problem today was that we conceded an easy goal off the set piece. That's what we have to avoid.”

Steve Brisendine covers soccer in Kansas City for
Twitter: @SteveBrisendine