TAMPA, Florida – Jordan Morris could practically hear Bruce Arena’s voice when he darted toward the near post to latch onto a short cross from Eric Lichaj.
It was a directive of the United States head coach for players to make that run. Morris did it to perfection and he was rewarded for it with a goal, his first of two in a 3-2 win over Martinique on Wednesday night that put the U.S. atop Group B in the CONCACAF Gold Cup after two matches.
“Forwards, especially when you’re playing two, one has to make that near post run, whether it’s a sacrifice or to score a goal,” Morris said. “And Eric, all credit to him, put in a great ball and I just had to flick it and luckily it went in.”
Morris, one of eight changes to Arena’s starting lineup from a 1-1 draw against Panama on Saturday, again made a quality run into the box on his second goal, when he received a cross from Gyasi Zardes in the 76th minute.
“He runs very well in the penalty area,” Arena commented of Morris. “We told the guys at halftime we had to get to the near post. We had to be a bit more aggressive. It was good to see we could pull that off. He had an overall good game tonight with Juan (Agudelo). It was impressive.”
At 22-years-old, Morris is the second youngest U.S. player to score two goals or more in a Gold Cup match. The youngest was 21-year-old Landon Donovan, who netted four times in a 5-0 win against Cuba in 2003.
“Four is very impressive,” Morris remarked. “It’s an honor to be in the same group as that guy. He’s an unbelievable player.”
Arena was impressed with several starters, including the combination of Juan Agudelo and Morris up front, Zardes’ play on the wing, Lichaj, Matt Besler and Justin Morrow in the back and Cristian Roldan, who made his first U.S. appearance.
“After group play we have the opportunity to change some players,” finished Arena. “Tonight, some of the performances will make those decisions a bit more difficult.”