Jordan Morris

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U.S. Soccer announces Player of Year nominees

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The United States men’s national team and women’s national team will each have a star elected Player of the Year, but the similarities end there.

The USWNT won the World Cup and choosing its top performer for 2019 is an improbably difficult task. The USMNT spent much of the calendar driving its supporters crazy.

Women’s nominees
Julie Ertz
Rose Lavelle
Megan Rapinoe
Alex Morgan
Alyssa Naeher
Carli Lloyd

It’s hard to find too much fault with the half-dozen World Cup winners chosen as finalists, though arguments for Kelley O’Hara and Tobin Heath would be well heard by the writer of this post.

It seems likely Rapinoe will claim the award, considering she’s yet to win it and was probably the most visible athlete in the world this summer.

Ertz, Morgan and Lloyd have all won the honor.

Men’s nominees
Christian Pulisic
Jordan Morris
Weston McKennie
Aaron Long
Tim Ream
Gyasi Zardes

As for the men, is there a scenario in which Christian Pulisic doesn’t win the honor? Reasonably? Yes.

Some will argue that Weston McKennie might get a look over Pulisic on the balance of their seasons, but there’s a strong argument to be made for Morris given his incredible comeback from injury and standout seasons for both Seattle and the USMNT.

Pulisic had three goals and three assists at the Gold Cup, and added goals against Chile and Cuba.

Morris bagged five goals and seven assists, including four and four in the CONCACAF Nations League group stage.

Three of the six men’s finalists ply their trade in MLS, while one is in the Premier League, another in the Football League Championship, and a sixth in the Bundesliga.

Pulisic won in 2017, while Zack Steffen nabbed the award in 2018. The other four nominees have not claimed one.

Rating the USMNT’s complete 2019 season

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2019 was supposed to be the year that the USMNT put the disaster in Trinidad & Tobago officially behind them. Instead, they flopped and floundered their way to more questions than answers in a year of change and doubt.

The first game of the year was also the first game of the Gregg Berhalter era, and while there were plenty of positive signs early on, it began to fall apart midway through the summer, and by the end of yesterday’s comprehensive win over troubled Cuba, there is plenty of unknown moving forward.

Berhalter began his tenure with friendly wins over Panama and Costa Rica, outscoring those opponents 5-0 and seeing the emergence of fringe players like Djordje Mihailovic, Daniel Lovitz, and Christian Ramirez who had broken out under interim boss Dave Sarachen but were also afforded some time with the main man in charge. It quickly became clear, however, that those players were not the ones to take the U.S. forward as the regulars returned for the win over Ecuador.

Flaws began to slowly emerge in the Ecuador win and the ensuing Chile draw in March, and as Berhalter dug in for the long spring international layoff, he prepared the plan for the Gold Cup summer. Whatever the plan, it did not emerge as expected. Veterans Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore returned for the summer slog, but they were powerless to stop the train from slowly screeching to a halt. The group stage went well against inferior opponents – including a 6-0 drubbing of Trinidad & Tobago to secure some minor revenge for two years prior – but a 1-0 win over lowly Curacao in the quarterfinals saw bubbles being to rise.

The US managed to get by Jamaica in the semis thanks to Christian Pulisic‘s textbook heroics, but the finals were a different story. A 1-0 loss to Mexico that saw the U.S. thoroughly dominated was the first real coin to drop, followed by a thorough 3-0 butt-whooping by Mexico’s B-side two months later in a friendly on home soil.

It all fell apart from there. They drew 1-1 with Uruguay’s backups a few days later, and then after skating by defection-laden Cuba, the worst result of the slate saw the U.S. stunned in Canada in Nations League play. The result not only proved a humbling reminder of the team’s work to do, but also put their Nations League standing in real jeopardy far earlier than any fan deemed acceptable.

The U.S. rescued its position and secured passage to the next round of the competition, but real problems remain. Berhalter’s coaching and tactical acumen have been questioned on multiple fronts, with many wondering whether his possessional style of play is too ambitious for a country still searching for top talent.

Still, the most pressing issue seems to be the suddenly paper-thin talent pool that currently troubles the nation. Injuries to players like John Brooks, Michael Bradley, and even Pulisic have left the United States forced to deploy players far below World Cup quality in their stead. Formerly promising critical young players such as DeAndre Yedlin and Weston McKennie have seemingly regressed, but with little behind them in terms of depth, Berhalter is forced to toil on hoping they recapture their form of not long ago.

Amid a toilsome year, the capture of Sergino Dest and the true emergence of Jordan Morris are individual success stories that deserve merit. Dest heavily considered his eligibility for the Netherlands but was ultimately swayed by Berhalter’s vision. Morris has returned from a serious knee injury by reinventing himself as an inverted winger, and his style switch has been an unmitigated triumph, transforming from a questionable developmental project to a near-lock in the squad.

In addition, Christian Pulisic’s rise to international stardom must also be considered. Unlike the development of Yedlin and McKennie which have been suddenly put in peril, Pulisic has continued to excel at the club level, moving to Chelsea and bursting onto the Premier League scene after a brief period of uncertainty. He continues to carry the U.S. side as well when given a chance, but as the Gold Cup disappointment shows, he clearly can’t do it on his own.

Still, in a year with few competitive matches against teams of the quality the United States aspires to equal, Berhalter failed the test. The overall body of work was simply not acceptable. He has the full support of U.S. Soccer for now – at least publicly – but there is much to be done as the U.S. moves further into the World Cup cycle and towards a potential return to the big dance. Berhalter must continue to establish his identity, but more importantly he must develop a talent pool that both excels at developing its most important players and finds those who can contribute in positions of its greatest need.

While the small success stories deserve to factor in, the simple fact is Berhalter does not deserve a passing grade, as questions of where the United States fit into the larger world picture suddenly loom large.

OVERALL GRADE: D+

Full 2019 USMNT results

Jan 28 – W 3-0 vs. Panama (friendly)
Feb 2 – W 2-0 vs. Costa Rica (friendly)
Mar 22 – W 1-0 vs. Ecuador (friendly)
Mar 27 – D 1-1 vs. Chile (friendly)
June 6 – L 1-0 vs. Jamaica (friendly)
June 9 – L 3-0 vs. Venezuela (friendly)
June 19 – W 4-0 vs. Guyana (Gold Cup)
June 23 – W 6-0 vs. Trinidad & Tobago (Gold Cup)
July 1 – W 1-0 vs. Curacao (Gold Cup QF)
July 4 – W 3-1 vs. Jamaica (Gold Cup SF)
July 8 – L 1-0 vs. Mexico (Gold Cup Finals)
Sept 7 – L 3-0 vs. Mexico (friendly)
Sept 11 – D 1-1 vs. Uruguay (friendly)
Oct 12 – W 7-0 vs. Cuba (CONCACAF Nations League)
Oct 16 – L 2-0 @ Canada (CONCACAF Nations League)
Nov 16 – W 4-1 vs. Canada (CONCACAF Nations League)
Nov 19 – W 4-0 @ Cuba (CONCACAF Nations League)

USMNT cruises past Cuba to reach Nations League semis (video)

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The U.S. men’s national team ticked all the boxes β€” most notably, the one reading “win and advance” β€” in its 4-0 victory over Cuba to reach the semifinals of the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League as the winners of Group A.

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Jordan Morris continued his scintillating late-season surge, carrying over his red-hot form for MLS Cup winners Seattle Sounders, and scored his second and third goals of the current international break to put the game out of reach before halftime. Josh Sargent also scored twice, once in each half.

The goals started extremely early and showed little sign of letting up from there. Josh Sargent put the Yanks ahead in the 36th… second. A mass scramble ensued after Paul Arriola crossed the ball into the six-yard box and Sargent got the final touch to tally his fourth senior goal.

Morris got the USMNT’s second in the 26th minute, when he tucked home a simple one-on-one chance set up by Jackson Yueill’s diagonal ball into the box, with a bit of help from Weston McKennie’s head.

Morris got his second of the game 13 minutes later, once again the result of a penalty-area scramble and a bit of pinball in the box. Aaron Long took two chances to get the ball across the face of goal, and once he finally did it looped over the goalkeeper’s head and found Morris crashing the back post. The ball appeared goal-bound without a touch from Morris, but better safe than sorry.

Sargent finished the scoring and bagged his second of the game, and the fifth of his international career, off a clever backheel by Tyler Boyd in the 66th minute. McKennie crossed the ball from right to left, overhitting it just a bit, but Boyd was able to touch it before crossing the endline and find Sargent in all kinds of space atop the six-yard box. He took the chance with his left foot and left very little to doubt.

The result sent the USMNT miles ahead of Canada in the final group standings. Despite finish tied on nine points, the Americans finished with a +12 goal differential compared to their northern neighbors’ +6.

USMNT rides early lead, hammers Canada

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The United States men’s national rode a dynamite first half to a 4-1 defeat of Canada in Florida on Friday.

The men were sloppy in the second half after riding out to a 3-0 lead, but the damage was done for Canada.

The Yanks will qualify for the CONCACAF Nations League final with a win over Cuba in the Cayman Islands.

[ WATCH: Three first half USMNT goals ]

After losing 2-0 to the Canucks in Toronto, the Yanks got a goal within two minutes of kickoff in Orlando.

Sergino Dest flicked or got good Fortune when he popped a Sebastian Lletget corner kick over a host of players, and Jordan Morris buried his chance past Red Star Belgrade back stop Milan Borjan.

The next 20 minutes showed a series of fouls and cards, but John Brooks and Lletget proved better up to the task than the lineup last summer.

The Yanks made it 2-0 when Morris again got behind the line, collecting a slightly-askew first touch and sending a left-footed cross that Zardes planted in the back of the goal.

It was 3-0 when Ream chipped a free kick to the center of the box for Long to head home.

The Yanks nearly made it 4-0 when Weston McKennie slipped Dest into a 1v1 with Samuel Piette. The Ajax man opened up room for a shot, but he dragged it wide of the goal.

The Canadians back line proved leaky, and Zardes stole a ball and squared for Lletget who blazed over the bar early in the second half.

Canada pulled one back through Vitoria, who got the best of the United States’ zonal marking. Brad Guzan made a couple straight-forward recoveries late as the Yanks held on for the win.

But the Yanks would find one more goal, Zardes’ hard shot deflecting past Borjan.

WATCH: USMNT opens up 3-0 lead over Canada

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The United States men’s national team got a near-perfect start to Friday’s CONCACAF Nations League group stage match versus Canada, and lead 3-0 at the break.

Jordan Morris got a goal and an assist in the first 25 minutes to put the Yanks back on top of Group A if the result holds in Florida.

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After losing 2-0 to the Canucks in Toronto, the Yanks got a goal within two minutes of kickoff in Orlando.

Sergino Dest flicked (or got good Fortune) to pop a ball over a host of players, and Jordan Morris buried his chance past Red Star Belgrade back stop Milan Borjan.

The Yanks made it 2-0 when Morris again got behind the line, collecting a slightly-askew first touch and sending a left-footed cross that Zardes planted in the back of the goal.

How about three? Tim Ream chipped a left-footed free kick to the middle of a sea of players, and Long rose highest to nod home.