Morris takes step forward in fierce battle on USMNT forward depth chart

Morris takes step forward in fierce battle on USMNT forward depth chart

U.S. Men's National Team

Morris takes step forward in fierce battle on USMNT forward depth chart

No position has been under the microscope more in the last few weeks than forward when it comes to the U.S. Men’s National Team.

Dom Dwyer took the international scene by storm by scoring a goal in each of his first two games against Ghana and Panama. On Wednesday night, Jordan Morris raised the level of competition even higher with a two-goal performance in the team’s 3-2 win over Martinique.

Morris used his often-criticized left foot to score the second USMNT goal and then he smashed in the game-winning strike in the 76th minute to double his international goal tally.

“I thought it was a great win,” Morris said. “Martinique made it tough on us, but for me every time I go out there and try and be dangerous. Credit to Eric (Lichaj) on the first one. He put in a great ball and Gyasi (Zardes) on the second one. I just try to go out and do my best every time and was fortunate enough to get a couple tonight.” 

Despite entering what looks like a direct competition for the spot on the depth chart behind first-team forwards Jozy Altidore, Bobby Wood and Clint Dempsey, Morris is focused on the overall goal the USMNT has set for the competition.

“Of course it always feels good to score, but it’s all about the team, especially in a tournament like this it’s about getting three points,” Morris said. “For me, going out every day in practice and in games trying to do the best I can and prove myself to the coaching staff, but in the end, I’m fighting for the team and play for the team and do whatever I can to get the win for the team.” 

But with the success of Dwyer and Morris in July, it’s hard not to get into a debate about what the forward depth chart will look like in Russia. As long as they stay healthy, Altidore, Wood and Dempsey are locks to make the roster. But that’s a big if since Altidore and Wood have dealt with injuries in the past and Dempsey is getting up there in age.

If there is just one spot up for grabs, it looks like Dwyer and Morris will be the two main contestants, unless Juan Agudelo has a few massive performances before the end of the Gold Cup. The pair don’t have to worry about Gyasi Zardes, as it appears the LA Galaxy man is considered a midfielder, not a forward, by the current coaching staff.

Morris showed off his best skills on Wednesday night, as he made a few terrific runs into the box, including on his first goal in which he linked up with an Eric Lichaj pass from the right wing at the near post.

“(Jordan) runs very well in the penalty area,” USMNT manager Bruce Arena said. “We told the guys at halftime we had to get to the near post and we had  to be a little bit more aggressive and it was good to see that we could pull that off. (Jordan) had an overall good game tonight with Juan. It was impressive.” 

While Morris benefits a ton from his speed, Dwyer impacts the game with his hold-up play and relentless motor. He also popped up in the right place at the right time to score the USMNT’s lone goal against Panama.

At this stage, Dwyer and Morris are neck and neck for the fourth forward position on the World Cup roster. Both have already impressed at the Gold Cup, but hopefully there are four more games to go for each to continue to state their respective cases in what should be one of the closest fights for a spot on the plane next June.

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