"I have to be honest – this addition to our team has been more emotional for me than most players that we’ve signed in the past." This, from Seattle Sounders FC owner Adrian Hanauer, best sums why the club spent so much time, money, and effort in getting Jordan Morris back to Seattle.
The signing of Jordan Morris to the largest MLS Homegrown Player contract in history was anything but normal for the Sounders. It was a deal, Hanauer said, nearly 10 years in the making. Morris himself told the media at his introductory press conference that playing for the Sounders has been a dream since he was a kid, saying "I grew up following this club in its USL days, and MLS days as well. I wanted to play in front of my hometown – in front of the 45,000 fans at CenturyLink."
Just like Morris, Hanauer also first experienced the Sounders at a young age and played soccer at Mercer Island High School. "I grew up with the original NASL Sounders, going to those games, it left an indelible mark on me."
While Hanauer admits he was never good enough to play the game professionally like he had hoped, his strong emotional attachment to the club led him to where he is today, as majority owner. Hanauer has made it his goal to make those dreams come true for talented players like Morris that have also dreamed of playing for the club since childhood. "Jordan was about the same age [when he first saw the Sounders] that I was when I first became associated with the Sounders. I like to believe that the Sounders' family, integrity, character, and commitment to community and the people around the organization have left an indelible mark on him as well."
Hanauer used the word "family" many times in his introduction of Morris, stressing that the Sounders truly cared about Morris' development rather than just snagging a great new player for the team. The Sounders actually can count Morris and his family as part of the larger Sounders family, as the player's father, Dr. Michael Morris, is the team's Medical Director & Orthopedic Surgeon. "People hear me talk a lot about the Sounders family, which means all the way from our fans to our corporate partners, media partners, the people who work for Sounders FC, the team side. Media, as well. It’s really important to me that we operate as a family." For Hanauer, Morris is "more than just a player signing, [he's] someone who's grown up in the Sounders family."
This isn't to say that Jordan Morris isn't a huge deal for the Sounders, and MLS. Both Hanauer and Sigi Schmid remember the first time they really saw Morris' potential, at a reserve match in Portland. "I said to myself, holy crap, this kid is the real deal." Morris scored an impressive header that sowed the seeds of his future with the Sounders. Hanauer also reiterated Sigi Schmid's comments that Morris has "qualities that you can't teach."
But Morris wasn't some final piece to the puzzle of the 2016 season, as Hanauer admits that had they not used the HGP money on Morris, they wouldn't have done anything different on the transfer market. "We might have focused a little more on our young players at training camp, but there really was no Plan B," had they not managed to sign Morris.
The combination of all these factors is why it's such a unique situation for the club. Yes, Jordan Morris is one of the most talented American players in quite awhile. But he's not perfect, he could just as likely be a flop as he could be a superstar. But the Sounders know this. They wouldn't have splashed the cash for the largest HGP contract in history for just any top college player. The Sounders pursued Morris because he has such a unique connection to the club, and if his talents are fostered correctly, he could be the poster boy for Seattle, MLS, and United States soccer as a whole. Hanauer wants to see this talented prospect from his hometown and his club be successful, and he truly believes that the Sounders are capable of doing this for Morris. "We think we are gonna be able to challenge him, and help him grow both on and off the field."