ORLANDO — The absence of Christian Pulisic from the U.S. Men’s National Team left a big void in the USMNT attack, but the team’s most in-form attacking threat stepped up to the challenge, capping a dream week with another standout performance.
Jordan Morris delivered a goal and assist in the USMNT’s 4-1 romp over Canada, playing a part in the first three U.S. goals to help the Americans retake control of their Concacaf Nations League group. The 25-year-old continued his strong run of form, setting the tone for the night with a second-minute goal.
“I think getting off to a fast start helped take the pressure off and we were confident coming into this game,” Morris said. “It was all about intensity for us and what we could do to improve on that. I think that was the biggest disappointment that we had in Toronto was we kind of got out-competed and so to come in today our whole focus on it was on being more intense and to get better.”
“The goal was important though. I think it gave us some confidence so that’s a credit to training. It was good obviously, the shot was deflected, but fortunately I was able to put it away. I think we’re dangerous on set pieces and being able to throw a trick one in there.”
Morris’ first goal came with a bit of luck as a Weston McKennie shot from the top of the box deflected over the Canadian backline and fell to the winger. Morris finished smoothly into the bottom corner for his first international goal since a 1-1 friendly against Uruguay.
After opening the scoring, Morris used his pace to help set up the USMNT’s second of the night. With Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan off his line, Morris turned and chipped a cross to an onrushing Gyasi Zardes. Zardes headed in what turned out to be Morris’ sixth international assist of 2019, which leads the USMNT. Although he didn’t get on the scoresheet again after playing a part on the opening two goals, Morris made things difficult for Canada with his constant pressure and ability to get downfield.
“We knew that Jordan was a guy who liked to run off the defenders and get behind them with his pace and credit to him he did that tonight,” Canada head coach John Herdman said. “He’s quick and also aggressive so it causes problems for defenders. We knew he was coming in on good form especially after winning MLS Cup, so we tried to key on him but it’s hard to focus your efforts on one person in a game.”
“That’s what Jordan brings, I’ve talked about his second half of the season this year with Seattle and it’s been amazing,” USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter said. “He’s been fantastic, his game-changing ability, his physicality, his speed, his ability to finish up plays in the right way. He makes good decisions in front of goal, and I think playing on the left side, really worked for us. And I think he does a good job.”
Morris wasn’t the only player getting behind the Canadian defense, as Paul Arriola and Gyasi Zardes also were impactful in the offensive attack. Unlike its 2-0 loss to Canada in October, the USMNT made sure to hit the Canadians where it hurt and keep its foot on the gas for 90 minutes.
“Gregg stresses being able to get behind teams and make things happen and we felt like we could exploit that a little bit in offensive transition that maybe they wouldn’t be able to counter,” Morris said. “That was a big emphasis on the game. It all starts with the collective group. We also won a lot of the first balls which against we struggled to do in Toronto, so that was good.”
Morris was one of several players who shined in Friday’s win alongside Zardes, John Brooks, Aaron Long, and Sergino Dest. With regular starters like Pulisic, Michael Bradley, and Zack Steffen out, it was key that whoever Berhalter started had an impact and Morris made sure to live up to the title on Friday.
“It obviously hurts when you don’t have guys here, but tonight I think it’s just a testament to to the team that other guys can step up,” Morris said. “There’s a lot of quality within this team so if one person can’t play we need someone that’s going to step up and do the job. Tonight we had that happen in a bunch of areas.”
It’s been a whirlwind of a week for Morris who lifted his second MLS Cup title last week after his Sounders defeated Toronto FC at CenturyLink Field. He followed that up with a dominant outing against Canada in a win the USMNT desperately needed.
It also capped a dream week fo Morris, who may have wound up missing Seattle’s victory parade, but Friday’s USMNT win, and his man-of-the-match performance, made missing the parade worth it.
“I’ve been feeling great, obviously I’ve been a part of some super special moments lately,” Morris said. “The MLS Cup Final was amazing for the team and for the fans, and it’s hard to put into words. Coming in from Seattle, the focus was this game and I thought it was a great team performance.”