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USMNT squeak past Martinique after wild second half with a 3-2 victory

The US threw away a two goal lead in the second half, before Jordan Morris spared the embarrassment for the US

The United States men’s national team had another disappointing performance in the Gold Cup, but they eventually escaped against Martinique with a 3-2 victory, after a roller coaster of a second half. After the US surrendered a two goal lead in the second half, Jordan Morris struck for his second goal in the 76th minute, giving the US three points, vaulting them to the top of Group B, ahead of Panama on goals scored.

Omar Gonzalez gave the US an early second half lead, poking home a rebound in the 53rd minute, for his second international goal. Morris made it two for the USMNT 11 minutes later, but Martinique immediately replied, with Kevin Parsemain scoring to get Martinique back within a goal. Parsemain was credited with a second goal in the 74th minute to level the score, but Morris popped up just two minutes later to provide the final tally.

The first half was a rather mundane affair, as the US struggled to break down a well organized Martinique side. Bruce Arena made eight changes to the side that settled for a 1-1 draw against Panama, and his attack never really got out of first gear in the first half. The best chance for the US came in the 11th minute, when Kellyn Acosta curled a free kick into the box. Morris had to work back to get to the ball, which in turn forced him to head wide, though keeper Kevin Olimpa looked to have it covered.

Though the US started out on the front foot, they faded as the half wore on, and it was Martinique who should have felt disappointed by the scoreline at the break. Parsemain hit the post in the 33rd minute, after being set up in the box by Stephan Abaul.

Abaul then glanced a header just wide in the 43rd minute, before Parsemain had a shot saved by Guzan a minute later, signalling that the islanders were more than capable of standing toe to toe with their American counterparts.

The second half though hardly mirrored the first, as both teams should’ve scored goals within the opening minutes of the half. Paul Arriola raced onto a deflected shot from Juan Agudelo, beating Olimpa to the ball, but firing a shot off of the bar from close range.

Yoann Arquin then beat Matt Hedges to a floated cross in the box in the 51st minute, bouncing a header that forced Brad Guzan to react quickly to keep Martinique off of the board. Morris then was away towards goal moments later, but his chipped attempt was caught by Olimpa, who had already committed himself to the ground, making the save while sitting down.

Arriola forced Olimpa to concede a corner with a save in the 53rd minute, which then directly led to the US’ opening goal. Acosta’s corner was cleared at the near post, but right to the top of the box. Arriola one-timed a shot, which took a deflection, forcing Olimpa into an awkward save on the line. The rebound fell right to Gonzalez, who poked it home for the 1-0 lead.

The next real chance for the US resulted in another goal, this time Morris providing the tally. Alejandro Bedoya, who had just come on for Acosta, played a pass down the line, into the box, for Eric Lichaj. Lichaj centered the ball, and Morris stepped in front of a waiting Olimpa, redirecting a shot home for a two goal advantage.

But just when it seemed the US would be in the clear, Martinique came roaring back. Just two minutes after Morris’ goal, Abaul collected a pass near the top of the box, and held off Hedges. Abaul then laid a pass back for Parsemain, who one timed a shot that skipped underneath Guzan to bring Martinique back within a goal.

And shockingly enough, the comeback was complete in the 74th minute, with Parsemain making it two on the night. A cross into the box was collected by Parsemain at the far post, but his shot attempt was swept away by Guzan. The ball though fell to Johan Audel, who quickly fired another shot away. Audel’s shot was going wide, but it deflected off of Parsemain, who was on the ground, and looped over Guzan, leveling the proceedings up.

That scoreline had barely settled in though when Morris scored the eventual winner. Playing a ball out wide to Gyasi Zardes, Morris made a run towards the top of the box, with other runners closing in on goal. Zardes played a pass to the open space at the top of the box, and the space created by runs by Agudelo and Bedoya allowed Morris to slide in unmarked, and the striker made no mistake with his first timed effort.

Morris could have added to the US’ lead late, but Martinique wasn’t able to mount another comeback. The win put the US atop of Group B, tied with Panama with four points and a plus one goal differential, but ahead on goals scored, with the US having four, and Panama having three after a 2-1 win earlier over Nicaragua.

The US wraps up their group play on Saturday, when they take on Nicaragua.