Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber wastes (and regrets doing so) the following five minutes of his remaining lifespan talking with CSNBayArea's Ray Ratto, discussing the future of MLS, in particular the long-term health of the San Jose Earthquakes. He also addresses Major League Soccer's position relative to the best and most popular international soccer leagues, and why Eurosnobs are a badly needed part of the market. Click and be further enlightened.
SANTA CLARA -- As the victorious American players bounced so hard the podium shook, medals round their necks, a beaming Bruce Arena in the back raised his arms to the air right along with them as gold confetti began to fall.
The U.S. resurgence is off to an impressive start since Arena returned late last year. Another CONCACAF Gold Cup crown, and now on to more important business: qualifying for next year's World Cup.
Former Stanford star Jordan Morris scored a tiebreaking goal in the 88th minute, and the United States beat Jamaica 2-1 on Wednesday night for its sixth Gold Cup title and first since 2013.
Jozy Altidore's goal on a 28-yard free kick in the 45th minute beat backup goalkeeper Dwayne Miller after Jamaica captain Andre Blake left early with a hand injury.
Je-Vaughn Watson tied the score when he got away from Morris for a 4-yard volley off Kemar Lawrence's 50th-minute corner kick.
Morris, who left nearby Stanford in his junior year, has won the 2015 NCAA title, the 2016 MLS championship with Seattle and now the 2017 Gold Cup. He got the breakthrough goal with a 14-yard right-footed shot after Gyasi Zardes crossed.
"I was nervous. It was my guy that scored on the goal, so I was trying to make up for it any way that I could," Morris said. "Obviously. I take responsibility for that. But luckily I could put one in the back of the net."
Jermaine Taylor tried to clear with a header and the ball was knocked by Clint Dempsey with a leg back to Morris. It was the fifth international goal for the 22-year-old Morris, who tied 16-year-old Canadian Alphonso Davies for the tournament lead with three goals.
"That was like a dagger in the heart," Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore said.
The U.S. extended its unbeaten streak to 14 games (9-0-5) under Arena, who became the first coach to win three Gold Cup titles.
"Bruce brought in a new energy," goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "He just gave us a tremendous lift."
U.S. captain Michael Bradley earned the Golden Ball at the tournament's top player.
The Americans had a chance in the 19th minute when Altidore's swerving 30-yard shot was parried by Blake, who dived left and then beat Kellyn Acosta to the rebound at the 6-yard box. Acosta collided with Blake and appeared to kick the keeper's right hand before Jamaica's Damion Lowe cleared. Blake's hand was wrapped but he couldn't continue and was replaced by Miller four minutes later. As Blake left the field, he acknowledged the cheering fans with a wave of his left hand, then later emerged for the medal ceremony with his hand bandaged after receiving seven stitches. Nothing was broken.
"It was a very unfortunate situation. What to say? Very sad situation," Whitmore said.
Altidore put the U.S. ahead with a curling shot past Miller's outstretched right hand into the upper corner of the net just beneath the crossbar, his 39th goal in 108 appearances.
Lawrence, who scored in a 1-0 semifinal win Sunday against Mexico, took another corner kick in the 75th minute moments after Alvas Powell's shot from close range deflected off Graham Zusi - a sequence that had Howard yelling at the defense.
Using a lineup with about half its regular starters - the rest are in preseason with European clubs - the U.S. reached its record 10th final. The Reggae Boyz were a surprising final opponent after they stunned Mexico in a semifinal Sunday to reach the title match for a second straight time.
With 18 of 22 starters from Major League Soccer, this was a rematch of the 2015 Gold Cup semifinal won 2-1 by Jamaica at Atlanta. For the first time since replacing Jurgen Klinsmann in November, Arena kept his lineup unchanged. He inserted the 34-year-old Dempsey in the 55th minute.
Chunks of turf came loose yet again at Levi's Stadium, the $1.2 billion, 3-year-old home of the NFL San Francisco 49ers. The field has been an ongoing issue.
The Americans hope for momentum built during this run as they prepare to resume World Cup qualifying. The U.S faces Costa Rica in a rematch of the Gold Cup semifinal on Sept. 1 at Harrison, New Jersey, and play four days later at Honduras. The hex concludes against Panama on Oct. 6 in Orlando, Florida, and at Trinidad and Tobago four days after.
"We're not worried one bit about World Cup qualifying today. I can promise you that," Bradley said. "This was about a group of guys winning a trophy and that's been the only goal."
Arena already was looking ahead.
"We're a long way from qualifying for a World Cup, and that's the objective, for sure," he said.
What a difference a week makes.
The San Jose Earthquakes entered their two-game, coast-to-coast swing of road games in playoff position.
But now, after a 5-1 loss to the Red Bulls in the middle of last week and on Sunday, a 3-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders, the Quakes are in seventh place in the Western Conference -- on the outside looking in.
Here are five takeaways from defeat number nine on the season:
-- For the first 53 minutes there, it looked like San Jose had corrected what ailed them against the Red Bulls. They bent but did not break.
But Christian Roldan opened the flood gates in the 54th minute, capitalizing on a defensive miscue and then it didn't take Seattle too much longer to put the game out of reach -- and make the Quakes look completely out of place.
Roldan scored again in the 56th minute and Kelvin Leerdam, starting in his first game for the Sounders, scored nine minutes later.
Roldan came inches away from his hat trick -- hitting the post in the 79th minute.
-- Again, it's tough to criticize the play of one player, but in both Roldan goals -- that came within a minute of one another -- Andres Imperiale looked like the target of Seattle's attack -- he got caught flat footed on the first goal and on the second, the Argentinean was beat in the air.
His defensive partner Victor Bernardez was victimized on that second goal too.
It's probably not a coincidence then, that the Quakes signed Swiss defender Francois Affolter during the week.
-- Speaking of Affolter, we've yet to see him at Avaya Stadium. And just like Jesse Fioranelli's other signing, little is known of the international player. Yet, at this point, with injuries and a deep run in the U.S. Open Cup tournament, the Quakes are in need of able bodies.
Affolter, a center back, does have five international caps and over 200 caps in the Swiss Super League and German Bundesliga.
-- After losing to New York last week, the Quakes moved below the magic red line in the Western Conference. Sunday's loss to the Sounders is critical -- with 21 games played, the Sounders not only creeped ahead of the Quakes, but are now four points clear of their Western Conference rival for that sixth (and last) playoff spot.
Over a two-match stretch, the Quakes went from fifth and in the playoffs to seventh and knowing the latter part of the season (13 games) will be an uphill climb.
-- San Jose got another look at Vako. The midfielder scored against the Red Bulls but, after checking in during minute 62, Vako did not figure into the attack.
And, in the interest of the aforementioned able bodies, it was positive to see Quincy Amarikwa put in another shift ... and almost score in the 83rd minute.