Thursday 27 July 2017, 15:39

Stars and Stripes close gap on El Tri

  • USA crowned continental champions for sixth time

  • Canada's 16-year-old Alphonso Davies finishes top goalscorer

  • USA earns berth in 2019 CONCACAF Cup for place in next Confederations Cup

USA are CONCACAF Gold Cup champions for a sixth time and with their latest triumph moved to within one continental trophy of rivals Mexico’s record tally in the competition.

Surprisingly, they did it without having to face El Tri, who fell to Jamaica in the semi-finals.

Bruce Arena, who became the competition's most successful manager with three triumphs, started out the journey with a somewhat-experimental side, giving valuable minutes to players without any experience in major international tournaments.

Once qualified for the knockout stages as Group A winners, Arena brought in a wealth of experience to the squad, which proved a shrewd move. Captain Michael Bradley, fresh from scoring a sensational goal to help the Stars and Stripes earn a point at Estadio Azteca in World Cup qualifying, came in and helped navigate the side through tricky ties against El Salvador and Costa Rica en route to the final against The Reggae Boyz of Jamaica.

In the final, played in front of over 60,000 fans in Santa Clara, USA dominated the pattern of play and were rewarded when Jozy Altidore curled in a free-kick from almost 30 yards right before half-time. Five minutes after the break, however, Jordan Morris lost his marker and Je-Vaughn Watson scored the equaliser when he ghosted in towards the back post, converting Kemar Lawrence’s corner kick.

Ultimately, 22-year-old Morris, who was the only USA player to appear in all six matches at the tournament, made up for his defensive lapse by scoring the winning goal in the 88th minute and his third of the tournament with an assured finish from just inside the penalty area.

“Every time I step on the field it’s such an honour to represent my country,” Morris said post-match. “Credit to Jamaica, they made it very tough for us. I was nervous. It was my guy that scored the goal and I was trying to make up for it anyway I could. I take responsibility for that, but luckily I could put one in the back of the net.

“You saw the progression as we went through the tournament. It’s always tough when you get a group of guys together that haven’t played together in awhile and get them on the same page but the coaching staff does a great job and for us, you saw we got better as the tournament went along and it culminated in tonight. It’s an honour to be part of the team.”

USA's campaign in numbers 6 USA crowned CONCACAF Gold Cup champions for sixth time (1991, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2013, 2017) 3 Head coach Bruce Arena earns record third Gold Cup trophy (2002, 2005, 2017) 57 Clint Dempsey equalled Landon Donovan’s goals record for USA when he scored against Costa Rica in the semi-finals

“Jordy’s (Morris) been a big player for us this tournament,” USA goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “As we look forward to the next 18 months, he’s going to play a big role for this team. I’m just happy to see him smash that thing home and give us a chance to celebrate.”

For Jamaica’s part, although there’s surely disappointment, they can look on the experience with a sense of pride having qualified for a second consecutive Gold Cup final. Jamaica became the first Caribbean nation ever to contest a Gold Cup final, when they fell to Mexico 3-1 in the 2015 final.

Perhaps the script would have been different this time around for Jamaica had stand-out performer, goalkeeper Andre Blake, not come off the pitch with a broken hand in the first half. His replacement Dwayne Miller, who had not played a single minute all tournament, performed admirably but ultimately the edge belonged to Arena’s side buoyed by the home crowd.

The title earns USA a berth in the 2019 CONCACAF Cup, a one-match play-off against the winners of the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup for a place in the 2021 FIFA Confederations Cup.

CONCACAF Gold Cup Awards Golden Ball: Michael Bradley (USA) Golden Boot: Alphonso Davies (Canada) Golden Glove: Andre Blake (Jamaica) Young Player Award: Alphonso Davies (Canada) Fair Play Award: USA