The U.S. Men's National Team defeated Martinique 3-2 on Wednesday night to move atop Group B of the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Omar Gonzalez opened the scoring early in the second half before Jordan Morris struck twice to seal the victory in an entertaining battle at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
Sporting Kansas City trio Matt Besler, Dom Dwyer and Graham Zusi were unused substitutes after starting the Group B opener on Saturday against Panama.
The first half saw chances on both ends amidst hot and humid playing conditions. The Americans began brightly as Morris had a shot saved before heading marginally wide off a Kellyn Acosta free kick in the 11th minute. Shortly thereafter, Gyasi Zardes forced Martinique goalkeeper Kevin Olimpa into a pair of saves.
At the opposite end, Martinique grew in confidence closer to halftime. Kevin Parsemain's deflected strike hit the post in the 32nd minute, then Stephane Abaul lost his man on a corner kick and directed a skipping header inches wide of goalkeeper Brad Guzan's righthand post. On the cusp of halftime, Parsemain's bending strike was destined for the top corner but palmed away by Guzan.
Paul Arriola came agonizingly close to firing the U.S. ahead in the 48th minute, latching onto a deflected effort from Juan Agudelo and smacking the ball onto the crossbar from close range. Three minutes later, Arriola and Morris were denied on the breakaway when Olimpa produced a pair of vital saves.
The U.S. was rewarded for its strong start to the second period with the game's first goal on 54 minutes. An in-swinging corner kick from Acosta was cleared only as far as Arriola, whose blast through traffic was blocked by Olimpa. Gonzalez reacted quickest to the rebound, poking home near the goalmouth to record his second career goal in his 42nd cap.
Morris doubled the lead 10 minutes later as the encounter effectively burst to life, slotting low into a gaping net following a delightful buildup down the right flank involving Eric Lichaj and Alejandro Bedoya. The two-goal advantage wouldn't last long, however, as Parsemain tucked a side-footer from the top of the box past Guzan in the 66th minute.
Bedoya squandered a terrific chance to restore the Americans' two-score cushion in the 72nd minute, volleying over the bar after Justin Morrow whipped an excellent cross to the far post from the left wing. The U.S. would pay for the missed opportunity just two minutes later when Martinique drew level in bizarre circumstances. Parsemain forced a save from Guzan before Johan Audel's follow-up caromed off the sprawling Parsemain, looped over the goalkeeper and nestled into the net
The Americans atoned for the humbling moment when Morris bagged his brace in the 76th minute. Zardes' cutback pass from the left side of the box rolled across the face of goal and was finished with aplomb by the Seattle Sounders striker.
The U.S. will now prepare for their Group B finale against Nicaragua on Saturday at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, set to kick off at 6 p.m. CT on FXX, Univision and UDN.
2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup: Group B Standings
The CONCACAF Gold Cup is the biennial international championship contested among nations from the North, Central American and Caribbean region. The 2017 edition separates 12 teams into three groups of four, with the top two finishers from each group and the two best third-placed teams qualifying for the quarterfinals. The Gold Cup final will take place on Wednesday, July 26 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.