Garth Lagerwey had a front-row seat for the Freddy Adu unveiling. Literally. Back in 2004, Lagerwey was working for D.C. United's broadcast team. He was one of the many people shoving a microphone into the 14-year-old's face, asking him what it was like to become the poster child for a league that was still very much finding its way.
Lagerwey saw how Adu was paraded in front of late-night talk show audiences, featured in national commercials, had Pele working as his hype-man and even dated a singer.
While those early years aren't quite the disaster we tend to remember them as -- 11 goals and 18 assists before you turn 18 is hardly bad -- it didn't stop Adu from becoming the poster-child for something entirely different: A player being crushed by expectations.
So whenever an American soccer player starts getting heaps of attention before they've performed at the highest level, Adu's name always seems to be just a breath away.
Enter Jordan Morris.
The hype surrounding Morris is not at Adu levels. But the Sounders weren't exactly demure with the way they presented him to the public after Thursday's signing.
The full complement of Sounders front office staff was on hand. TV cameras were everywhere, and Morris was literally surrounded by microphones when he gave his first Sounders interview. He was hiked up to the top of the Space Needle for a photo shoot. The Sounders even tweeted out a picture of Morris next to Lionel Messi, seemingly comparing the 21-year-old to the world's best player.
It's fair to ask if it was all a bit much. Unprompted, even Lagerwey mentioned the specter of Adu during the introductory press conference.
Yet, the Sounders don't seem all that worried.
"[Adu] was pretty composed, but he was 14 years old," Lagerwey recalled of his first impressions. "We’re talking about a kid who’s 21. He’s literally 50 percent older. Throw in the Stanford education and it’s a little different set of facts."
There's also something to be said for the likelihood that Morris' tale has somewhat run its course from a national media perspective. Sure, everyone is still watching, but once he suits up for the Sounders, he'll no longer be a soccer unicorn -- an amateur playing at the international level. That's why he's been the subject of features in just about every publication that pays attention to soccer and been a guest on Men in Blazers. Now, he's just a talented player on a team full of them.
"We love Jordan, but we have much bigger players than Jordan today," Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer said. "Jordan has to earn his way onto the field. Freddy Adu was instructive, but Sigi has been around the block, Garth has been around the block, Jordan has an unbelievable head on his shoulders. I don’t think you can really compare the two situations.
"He’s also had more of a progression, he just led his college team to a championship, and he’s not 14. He’s a young man, he’s not a boy. Certainly we’ll need to thump him in the head occasionally, to make sure his head isn’t too big, but he’s a quality young man and I’m not too concerned with that."
Morris' family will also be on hand to help do any necessary ego checking.
"I talked to one of Jordan’s big brothers at the press conference, he assured me that hype and expectations would not be a problem," Lagerwey said. "It was a joking exchange obviously, but Jordan is humble.
"Humility is a pretty cool thing because it allows you to keep learning. The biggest thing that happens with hype and with people who have a lot of success at an early age is that they stop learning. They stop getting inputs and stop improving. What could be a platform to launch them into true success becomes this albatross because they think they’ve made it when they haven’t. I just don’t think any of that applies to Jordan. He’s humble, well educated, a supportive family. Trust me, it’s never as simple as this guy will make it and this guy won’t, stuff happens. But Jordan has a good of a chance as anybody."
Oh, and by the way, Morris doesn't exactly come off as an overwhelmed kid, either.
"It’s a lot definitely, but it’s flattering and very exciting," Morris said, even joking how much worse he used to be at interviews. "I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else."