SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Just hours after Landon Donovan’s criticism on the future of the USMNT’s individual talent surfaced the web, Jordan Morris delivered a heroic goal against Jamaica in this year’s edition of the Gold Cup final, which should have many thinking twice about his present and future role up top.
The Stanford alumnus returned to the Bay Area with a bang in what easily could be the most significant game of his young, developing career. Yes, he has quite the optimal silverware collection for a 22-year-old: NCAA Championship in 2015, MLS Cup in 2016 with the Seattle Sounders, and now in 2017, a Gold Cup with his country.
But things haven’t always been dandy for Morris, especially not when the big screens at Levi’s Stadium read: 49:20 on Wednesday night. Jamaica’s leveling goal then could have easily been a haunting moment for the Seattle Sounders’ forward, costing him his focus for the remainder of the match. But instead, Morris left his poor marking skills on Je-Vaughn Watson behind and bounced back. In return, he gifted his team and coach Bruce Arena a cup-winning goal in the 88th minute.
“I didn’t like the mistake on the corner kick, but to hang in there and play well and make the difference in the game is encouraging,” Arena said in the press conference after claiming the Gold Cup. “He’s a young player with a lot of talent, a lot of physical qualities.
“I think he’s going to continue to grow,” Arena added. “My predecessor did an outstanding job for getting him involved in the program. He’s a player we certainly think has a future.”
For Arena, Morris seems to be the real deal and he sees Wednesday’s goal as a “big step” in his career. He was so convinced in the forward’s abilities, he opted to go with Morris over Clint Dempsey in Wednesday’s starting XI. Morris faces his challenges, mainly on that corner kick, but he battled through all 90 minutes.
“For me especially after that mistake, it’s tough sometimes,” Morris said. “But you just have to try and stay positive.
“And like I said, my teammates picked me right back up after the mistake,” Morris added. “Next play, keep moving on and try to make a difference and that’s what I tried to do.”
Altidore has played side by side with Morris and it’s not everyday someone praises a potential replacement, less when you are the veteran and there is plenty left in the tank.
“I’m happy for Jordan because that was a a tough moment for him [conceding the leveling goal],” Altidore said. “He lost his mark for a second and at this level you lose your mark for a second, it can be a goal and that’s what happens.
“I was telling them, ‘Make fun of him’ because (of) his look on his face, he was so sad,” Toronto FC’s forward added. “For him to get that chance and bury it. everybody was so thrilled for him. He works so hard. He’s a kid with a lot of potential, a lot of talent and he’s come a long way.”
Morris might not have had a picture perfect night, but he did everything to lift the USMNT to a memorable title on Wednesday.