SANTA CLARA, Calif. – US national team goalkeeper Tim Howard didn’t need to be a mind reader to see how terrible teammate Jordan Morris felt after letting his mark – Jamaican midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson – get free for a tying goal early in the second half of the 2017 Gold Cup final on Wednesday.
“You could see the disappointment on his face after the goal,” Howard told reporters at Levi’s Stadium. “You saw it on his face. He was annoyed. He was pissed off.”
As the game wound down with the score still knotted at 1-1, the pain of that play lingered for Morris, even as his teammates encouraged him to keep going and stay in the match, mentally.
“I’ve never really had anything like that in my career where I was kind of at fault for the other team scoring like that,” Morris said. “It was tough to get over, especially in such a big game, but my teammates were great and, for me, I just had to keep pushing forward and try to make a difference.”
The moment for that difference arrived in the 88th minute, when an attempted clearance by Jamaica defender Jermaine Taylor wound up in the feet of Morris’ Seattle Sounders teammate, Clint Dempsey. Dempsey couldn’t set himself up in time to take a shot, but he deadened the ball’s momentum, leaving it rolling, ever so slowly, for Morris to lash a 15-yard strike past Jamaica goalkeeper Dwayne Miller – a blast that not only delivered the Gold Cup to the US but also a measure of sweet relief for the 22-year-old from Seattle.
“Huge relief,” Morris said. “I felt terrible. You never want to be the guy to let the team down, so for me it was just trying to come back and make an impact. I was glad to be able to do that.”
The goal was “like a dagger in the heart,” as Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore put it, knocking the visitors out just as it looked like they would overcome the injury-induced first-half departure of star goalkeeper Andre Blake to force overtime.
“We were trying to hold out to see if we could make extra time,” said Jamaica defender Kemar Lawrence, “but what a banger.”
It was a performance that bore some similarities to the second-half brace Morris dropped on non-FIFA minnow Martinique in the group stage; despite being gummed up much of the night against a bunkered-in opponent, the youngster kept pushing until finally being rewarded. Morris’ goal Wednesday was his only official shot of the match.
“That’s pretty encouraging,” USMNT coach Bruce Arena said. “I didn’t like the mistake on the corner kick, but to hang in there and play well and get the goal that made a difference in the game was encouraging. …
“Those kind of moments are important for a player. That’s a big step he took tonight. I’m really pleased with that.”