Jozy Altidore Is Man of the Match in Gold Cup Final
July 26, 2017
THE U.S. MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM claimed the 2017 Gold Cup championship after knocking off Jamaica 2-1 in the final. The victory marks another important step as Bruce Arena attempts to rebuild the club with World Cup qualifying still in question.
While the scoreline was close, the U.S. was far superior to Jamaica—both in terms of possession and dangerous chances created. America's established veterans simply raised their game to a level Jamaica could not match, starting with Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley and including the likes of Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez.
Among the players who saw their stock shift, Jordan Morris looks to have moved past Dom Dwyer and Juan Agudelo for the fourth striker spot—at least for the moment. Morris played the hero role in the final and has the sort of pace the team needs. Kellyn Acosta did not have a great final but his overall tournament was pretty good, even if he still has a lot to learn.
The Starting Lineup
Tim Howard: There wasn’t much for Howard to do Wednesday night. He didn’t have to make a save and the sole Jamaican goal was the fault of Jordan Morris losing his man on a set piece. What Howard did have to do, he managed well. Rating: 6
Jorge Villafana: The Santos Laguna left back was a steady presence in the game. He managed to get forward a bunch of times and hit some decent crosses. Defensively he did not make many errors. Rating: 6
Matt Besler: The Sporting Kansas City central defender had a smart game and his distribution out of the back continued to be an asset. Defensively, he helped clean up whatever opportunities Jamaica had from the run of play. Rating: 6.5
Omar Gonzalez: It was the best game of the tournament for Gonazalez whose stock must be rising with a strong performance in a final as well as a good show at the Azteca last month. He was a threat on set pieces and was a steady force in the back. Rating: 6.5
Graham Zusi: The Zusi experiment at right back has been up and down so far. This was one of the “up” performances. The Orlando native was effective getting forward and into dangerous places. A few times he was caught up field but he had good defensive cover. Rating: 6
Michael Bradley: A very effective performance from the captain as he was a huge reason why the U.S. dictated the pace of the game. He forced turnovers and was effective with his passing. He is continuing to trend upward under Arena (and without Jermaine Jones). Rating: 7.5
Kellyn Acosta: The FC Dallas mainstay struggled in this game to create plays and make decisive passes. He was not bad but this was definitely a learning experience in terms of partnering with Bradley and serving a big role within this team. His work rate was commendable, however, as he never failed to track back and press forward. Rating: 5
Paul Arriola: The Californian hustled and, as always, attempting to play with frantic pace on the right side. As soon as he got the ball he was looking to make a big play and take defenders on. He wasn’t part of too many dangerous plays but he was a handful for the Jamaican defense. Rating: 5.5
Darlington Nagbe: The Portland Timber midfielder has set himself up to be a big part of this team moving forward and in tonight’s final he had a good but not great game. In the first half he nearly gave the U.S. team an early lead with a great move down the left side that set himself up for an open cross inside the box. His comfort on the ball really helped the U.S. build an overwhelming possession edge. Rating: 6.5
Jordan Morris: After a first half where he was largely invisible, Morris had a very eventful second half. He was completely at fault for Jamaica’s goal after letting Je-Vaughan Watson beat him on a corner kick. But soon after Arena brougth Clint Dempsey on and moved Morris to left wing. Morris then saw a lot more of the ball and became dangerous on several chances and his speed was an asset. He scored the game-winning goal late on a fantastic strike. He had both good and bad in this game—but in the end his goal will be the defining moment of the tournament. Rating: 6.5
Jozy Altidore: Far and away the man of the match. He nearly gave the U.S. the lead early with a great shot from distance that forced a big save from Andre Blake. Just before the half, Altdiore scored on a near-perfect free kick. For the rest of the game, he was critical in his hold-up play and his passing. After injuries have cost him all or most of the 2013 Gold Cup, the 2014 World Cup, the 2015 Gold Cup, and the 2016 Gold Cup, Altidore finally had the chance to be healthy for his first major tournament since 2011 and he rose to the occasion. Rating: 8
Clint Dempsey: The Texan did not have the same impact has he did on Saturday but he was still a threat and bothered Jamaica’s backline. He found his way into a few good scoring opportunities as the U.S. pressed to find the winner. Rating: 6.5
Gyasi Zardes: The LA Galaxy winger has a very rough night. His touch was off and his decision-making was slow. Too often he slowed or killed a promising attack. While it is true his cross into the box eventually resulted in Morris’ goal, it hit a Jamaican first and he was lucky it was not cleared. Rating: 4
Dax McCarty: Once again, the Chicago Fire midfielder came on for a late cameo to kill off the game. Rating: NR
Bruce Arena: The U.S. boss got what he wanted out of the Gold Cup. He won the tournament, improved the team's odds of a spot in the 2021 Confederations Cup, and looked at new players. He learned a lot about his player pool—some of it good and some of it bad. He was smart to stick with the same starting lineup as he used in the semifinal. His tactics also helped the team avoid getting into a track meet with Jamaica. In the final, he saw some good things from players like Villafana and Morris. He also saw that Kellyn Acosta is promising but needs a lot of work. Most importantly, however, is that the established veterans are all playing their best soccer in years—Bradley, Altidore, Besler, Nagbe, Dempsey, and Gonzalez. It wasn’t the best-played final, but a win is a win. Rating: 8