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Gold Cup final recap: USMNT 2–1 Jamaica

The United States defeated Jamaica in the Gold Cup final, 2–1, on Wednesday, with goals from Jozy Altidore and Jordan Morris. Jamaica lost their inspirational captain, Andre Blake, early in the first half, but were not let down by goalkeeping, and made the U.S. look uninspired for long stretches.

First half

The U.S. controlled the tempo in the early stages, without creating clear-cut chances. Jamaica hunkered in, looking to break, but the U.S. did a good job limiting those opportunities. Some crunching—though legal—Jamaican tackles, left U.S. ankles smarting, but there was little goalmouth action to speak of.

It took until the 19th minute for the first entry in the Andre Blake highlight reel. Unfortunately, it would also be the last. Blake showed his tremendous agility as he parried a vicious Altidore shot from outside the box. Kellyn Acosta followed up the shot, and appeared to inadvertently kick the keeper’s right hand as both players stretched for the ball. Blake left the pitch in tears. It was later revealed that he received seven stitches, though the initial report on the broadcast was of four broken fingers. Blake and Union fans alike will hope for the best possible prognosis.

The half continued apace, with curiously little tension. The U.S. dominated possession, but failed to make a mark with it, growing increasingly frustrated with the referee’s unwillingness to whistle some Jamaican fouls. But in the 45th, Michael Bradley was taken down 25 yards out and the U.S. finally had a free kick in a good position. Altidore stepped up and ripped a shot up and over the wall and into the back of the net off the crossbar. It was a rocket of a hit, but the keeper, substitute Dwayne Miller, got his fingertips to it—would Blake have saved it? The world will never know.

Happy to take the one-goal lead into the half, the U.S. still needed to find another gear in the second to make the game safe.

Second half

Jamaica would prove that point just five minutes in. Je-Vaughn Watson got away from Jordan Morris on a corner kick and sidefooted home from inside the six-yard box, leaving Tim Howard no chance. The goal brought Clint Dempsey onto the field earlier than expected, in the 54th, taking Acosta’s place.

The U.S. crept closer to goal over time, threatening on crosses and free kicks, but Jamaica continued to hold them at bay. In the 73rd, Morris jumped on a deflected Altidore pass and rifled a shot that Miller did very well to parry, but following the corner kick, Jamaica powered back the other way and nearly scored one of their own. Then just a minute later, Miller put on his Andre Blake mask and just got a mitt to a Dempsey header, pushing it onto the post. Both teams seemed to realize that, “Hey, it’s the Gold Cup final, we might want to try and win the thing.”

Just as it seemed the U.S. would allow aimless crosses to take them into extra time, however, one of those aimless crosses led to the go-ahead goal. In the 89th, substitute Gyasi Zardes punted one to a yellow jersey in the center of the box. It was headed out but hit a U.S. player and fell kindly for Morris at the top of the box. His first-time shot flew into the net and gave the U.S. the winning goal.

US verdict

Altidore described Jamaica’s strategy as lulling the opponent to sleep, then pouncing on mistakes. The U.S. was rarely caught out in this match, but likewise rarely threatened to score a goal directly. The second half, especially, was full of crosses that failed to find the mark. Morris, for his part, was anonymous for long stretches, but when he did get shooting opportunities, he took them, and his efficiency won the tournament and earned him co-top scorer honors, with three goals.

In the end, the U.S.’s best players—Bradley, Altidore, Morris—ensured that the U.S. took home the trophy, finding those fine margins that separate teams at the end of tournaments.

Final thoughts

Perhaps that’s what is most important. Finals are often like this, with caution from one or both teams taking the air out of the game, and the winners getting a few moments of inspiration from top players. Had Mexico gotten into the final, the roles may have been reversed. As it was, the U.S. acted like the favorites they were and forced the issue.

The win doesn’t leave a perfect taste in the mouth, though. The U.S.’s struggles before bringing in the ringers were disappointing, and an inability to truly separate themselves with the big guns brought in made some grumble, too. But in the end, Bruce Arena continues to lead a U.S. resurgence.


  1. UnionGoal says:

    Watched the game myself, nice write-up and thank you for the update on Blake.
    Come a long way since Klinsmann.
    Lesson for Union fans–as much as you like a coach, sometimes that change at the top can be a spark.

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    Anyone who thought Michael Bradley was better over the course of the tournament than Andre Blake is just an idiot. Blake should have gone home with the Golden Ball as well.

  3. Good news about Blake’s injury. A decent cut will still keep him out a bit but I feel much better about things considering McCarthy’s play this year. Kudos to him for working hard in training and growing as a keeper.

  4. I have to say, once Blake went out, my interest in this match waned considerably. Part of me really wanted to see a Jamaica upset. It’s the Gold cup so who really cares who wins. Though when I hear Arena’s thought on it, that it’s one of the few trophies you can win in CONCACAF, I hear a little Curtin talking about the US Open Cup. But good for the US and Arena. What’s it now 14 straight unbeaten? So glad Klinsi is gone, as it seems the players are too.

  5. Good write up, although I think you’re being a tad harsh on the US. To me, they did exactly what they had to do to win the tournament. Those same crosses that failed to find the mark. Well, Mexico had close to twice as many when they played Jamaica the other night. They had their B squad, I know. We had our A- squad though too. Can you imagine Pulisic in this tournament!…along with other European contingents. I think it would have been somewhat easier.

    • “To me, they did exactly what they had to do to win the tournament.”

      Some of us expect more. We are America. This is the gold cup. We shouldn’t be ok with playing down to the level of our opponents.

      • Zizouisgod says:

        Eh, finals are always tricky. Both teams typically are more cautious when a trophy is at stake which is why most finals aren’t pleasing to watch.

  6. What is fascinating to see is how different the players play. Under Klinsmann they were stiff and afraid since he wanted to keep everyone on edge (his philosophy was that this would be a great strategy to get the best of the players….). Under Arena they play with joy and as if the chains have been removed from their legs. What a difference! Too bad it took US Soccer forever to fire Klinssman.

  7. Jeremy, What the hell are you talking about? Referring to players
    with multiple years experience on usmnt as ringers is stupid. They were brought in late and the team was still without half of its starters. I can’t guess what you’ll call the European contingent when it arrives. Foreigners, Aliens, Illegitimate?

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