Santa Clara (United States) (AFP) – Jordan Morris’s late strike lifted the United States to a 2-1 victory over Jamaica on Wednesday in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final.
The United States captured their sixth Gold Cup crown — one shy of Mexico’s record seven victories in the regional championship for North and Central America and the Caribbean.
Morris sealed it in dramatic fashion with a goal in the 89th minute.
A misdirected Jamaican clearance was knocked down by US super-sub Clint Dempsey near the penalty spot and Morris blazed a right-footed shot past Jamaican keeper Dwayne Miller and inside the right post.
Jozy Altidore’s superb free kick had put the United States ahead in the 45th minute, but Jamaica’s Je-Vaughn Watson equalized in the 50th as the underdog Jamaicans pushed the US hard.
Jamaica were playing in their second straight Gold Cup final, after falling to Mexico in 2015.
That year they ousted the United States in the semi-finals, while this year they sent the Mexicans packing.
But they were again unable to break through and end the North American stranglehold on the title.
Since the inception of the Gold Cup, Mexico and the US have won all but one edition, with Canada triumphing in 2000.
Jamaica lost their talismanic goalkeeper, Andre Blake, to a hand injury early in the contest.
Miller was in goal as halftime approached, when US captain Michael Bradley was fouled in mid-field and Altidore curled the ensuing free kick over the wall and into the top corner of the net.
Miller soared to get his fingertips to the all but couldn’t keep it out of the net.
Jamaica pulled level when Watson bulled his way past Morris on a Kemar Lawrence’s corner kick to volley a short shot past US goalkeeper Tim Howard.
The first real chance for either team had come in the 19th minute, and the play proved costly for Jamaica.
Altidore fired a 25-yard blast and Blake rose to make the save. Trying to score from the rebound, the United States’ Kellyn Acosta crashed into Blake, whose right hand was injured badly enough to take the Jamaican captain out of the game.
He had led Jamaica to three shut-out victories in the tournament, including a 1-0 triumph over defending champions Mexico in the semis.
The United States are now unbeaten in 14 matches since Bruce Arena returned for a second spell as coach, taking over from Jurgen Klinsmann after the German was sacked in the wake of a 4-0 loss to Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying last year.
The US were less than convincing in group play with a young, inexperienced squad, but Arena called in veteran stars for the knockout rounds, adding Altidore, Dempsey, Michael Bradley and goalkeeper Tim Howard.
“This means everything,” the 38-year-old Howard said. “As you get older and get to finals, there’s so much pressure to win because I don’t know how many more finals I’ll come back to.”