For the first time in eight years, the USA and Mexico will meet on the Gold Cup final stage.
Weston McKennie scored before a 90-minute weather delay, Christian Pulisic scored twice off rebounds and the U.S. beat Jamaica 3-1 in Nashville, Tenn., Wednesday night to seal its return to the Concacaf championship match. The Americans will play Mexico at a sold-out Soldier Field in Chicago on Sunday, capping a day that will also feature the U.S. women's national team playing the Netherlands for the Women's World Cup title and Brazil and Peru vying for the Copa America title.
U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter made four changes to the lineup that struggled to beat Curaçao 1-0 in the quarterfinals. The most notable change came up top, where Jozy Altidore stepped in for Gyasi Zardes. Morris joined him in the U.S. attack, while right back Reggie Cannon and center back Matt Miazga came in on defense for Nick Lima and Walker Zimmerman, respectively.
The U.S. threatened in the opening minute, with Pulisic dangerous down the left-hand side. The Chelsea signing got to the end line and cut back a hard cross for Altidore, which was deflected toward the far post. The ball got played back into the danger area with an overhead kick, but Jamaica cleared before the U.S. could fire home the loose ball.
The U.S. had an even better chance three minutes later. Altidore sprung Morris down the right channel with a flicked-on header from Zack Steffen's long kick. Morris took his time before spotting Paul Arriola all alone in the center of the box. With time to fire, Arriola managed to get denied by Andre Blake, who made himself big and denied the D.C. United star's point-blank chance.
The goal that had been coming came soon after. Reggie Cannon, who moments before had fired a clear look into the side netting, received a long pass from Michael Bradley and crossed from the right with a first-time hit. With Altidore bodying up his defender, he extended out a foot and tapped the ball into space for McKennie, who surged through the area and beat Blake with a powerful finish for his second goal in as many games.
It nearly became 2-0 moments later. Pulisic drew a free kick after getting a cleat to the foot, and on the ensuing set piece, he curled a pinpoint chance on frame, only for Blake to deny him with a sprawling save to the left.
With the U.S. buzzing and looking as sharp as it has under Berhalter's watch, Mother Nature intervened. A lightning delay put a halt on the match, temporarily delaying it and stopping the USA's momentum in its tracks 17 minutes in. The match was stopped for nearly 90 minutes in total before resuming.
Jamaica had two great chances coming out of the delay. First, the dangerous Leon Bailey timed his run for a ball over the top, but scuffed his shot from a left-sided angle, allowing Steffen to make the save. The U.S. goalkeeper immediately turned it over on his distribution out of the back, and Jamaica pushed forward with numbers, with Darren Mattocks firing high on a clean look from 18 yards.
Steffen was called into action again in the 23rd minute, as Junior Flemmings let one rip from long distance, only for the U.S. backstop to make a strong diving save to parry it to safety.
The U.S. settled back into the match and had a dangerous threat in the 36th minute, as Pulisic turned on his defender and sprinted down the left-hand side. He juked another defender and sent in a dangerous cross, one that ultimately was put wide of the mark.
The U.S. didn't take long to double its lead once the match resumed from its second big break–halftime. Seven minutes into the second half, Morris surged forward down the right and tested Blake from an angle, forcing him to parry his save with a powerful effort. An alert Pulisic never stopped his run and stabbed home the rebound into the vacated net, making it 2-0 in the 52nd minute.
The U.S. should've made it 3-0 minutes later. Zardes had come on to replace Altidore and was instantly graced with a clean look just inside the Jamaica box after a set-up from McKennie. He totally flubbed it though, hitting his first-time strike well wide of the target.
That miss loomed large 12 minutes later, when Jamaica pulled a goal back. Shamar Nicholson, who scored the lone goal in a 1-0 Jamaica win over a second-choice USA in a pre-Gold Cup friendly, got the Reggae Boyz on the board by heading home a cross from Bailey, making it 2-1 and restoring some nerves around Nissan Stadium.
The U.S. restored its two-goal lead late and secured its place in the final on Pulisic's second goal of the game. It came in similar fashion, with Blake parrying a save and conceding a rebound, one that an alert Pulisic pounced on and fired home to make it 3-1.
Here were the lineups for both sides:
Here are the rosters for both sides:
GOALKEEPERS: Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Tyler Miller (LAFC), Zack Steffen (Manchester City)
DEFENDERS: Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas), Omar Gonzalez (Toronto FC), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact), Matt Miazga (Chelsea), Tim Ream (Fulham), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC)
MIDFIELDERS: Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew)
FORWARDS: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Tyler Boyd (Vitória Guimãres), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)
GOALKEEPERS: Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union), Amal Knight (UWI), Dwayne Miller (Syrianska)
DEFENDERS: Shaun Francis (Louisville City), Michael Hector (Sheffield Wednesday), Kevon Lambert (Phoenix Rising), Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls), Damion Lowe (IK Start), Alvas Powell (FC Cincinnati), Jamoi Topey (Bethlehem Steel)
MIDFIELDERS: Leon Bailey (Bayer Leverkusen), Andre Lewis (Portmore United), Tyreek Magee (Harbor View), Ricardo Morris (Portmore United), Peter-Lee Vassel (LAFC), Devon Williams (Louisville City), Je-Vaughn Watson (OKC Energy)
FORWARDS: Brian Brown (FC Reno), Junior Flemmings (Phoenix Rising), Maalique Foster (RVG Toros FC), Darren Mattocks (FC Cincinnati), Shamar Nicholson (Domzale), Dever Orgill (Ankaragücü)