U.S. U-23 Olympic qualifying got off to a positive start Thursday night at Sporting Park.
On the back of a Jordan Morris brace, the Americans topped Canada 3-1 in front of a sparse but lively pro-U.S. crowd.
Here’s what stuck out:
It’ll come as no surprise to those who follow American soccer closely, but Jordan Morris is the most exciting young prospect in recent memory. The Stanford Cardinal scored 34 seconds into the match on Thursday and challenged for a second throughout the first half. He then grabbed the brace in the 73rd minute to stretch the U.S. lead to 2-0. Playing with the U.S. senior team in marquee friendlies vs. Mexico and Brazil appears to be paying dividends. Morris is confident, energetic and surprisingly stout at 5-foot-11.
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Matt Polster’s versatility continues to be his greatest asset. The Chicago Fire rookie locked down the right side against Canada and Queens Park Rangers U-21 forward Michael Persasso in the first half. Polster has featured at right back, center back and in the midfield during MLS play. That versatility, coupled with consistency at a position the USMNT program has struggled to produce talent at, could see him more time.
It wasn’t the best night for Cameron Carter-Vickers and Matt Miazga, who enjoyed success as a center back pairing during this summer’s FIFA U-20 World Cup. It wasn’t a poor performance by any stretch of the imagination, but speed and decision-making definitely proved suspect at times. Still, there’s no reason to downplay the hype of their partnership. There’s a reason this is their third major tournament paired together in 2015.
Canada made things much easier for the U.S. in the early going. Giveaways propelled the U.S. in the first half, with Morris and Jerome Kiesewetter running laps down the right side. In the second half, though, Canada stayed compact and left the Americans with less space and tighter angles to work with.
Cuba’s surprising 1-1 draw with Panama helped the Americans take a commanding lead in Group A. Shorthanded entering the match, Cuba took it to Panama in the opening 45 minutes before Panama settled down and found an equalizer. So far so good for the U.S.
Major League Soccer’s promising youth was on display Thursday night. Eight players from MLS clubs featured for the U.S., seven of which have seen consistent playing time during the season.