Seattle felt a collective sigh of relief last weekend, as news broke that both Jordan Morris and Nicolas Lodeiro would be returning to the Sounders from international duty early and in time to play in Wednesday’s crucial match against Houston. Morris said that, while the decision to return to Seattle early was over his head, it’s the outcome that he had hoped for: “I wanted to come back and help the Sounders.”
Even though Morris seemed likely to make the early return, nothing was concrete until the decision was made after the USA’s friendly against Cuba. He said that he was told he’d be returning early, but “if anything happened in Cuba, [someone] got hurt or something like that, maybe I would have had to stay.”
Morris clearly values his time with the national team, and he described the trip to Cuba as a “cool experience.” But his first priority now is to buckle down and prepare for Wednesday’s match. He said that the team is very focused on themselves, rather than their opponents and playoff rivals; “we have to come out and put our stamp on the game.” According to Morris, the team is extremely aware of their playoffs situation, and that they take it very seriously.
But that doesn’t mean that they’re not having fun. The team’s post-match locker room celebrations have been all over the internet in recent weeks, which is clearly lifting the players’ spirits even more—though Morris could do without some of the dancing. “I wish I didn’t have to dance, but it’s a lighter atmosphere a little bit when you’re winning games and things are going your way.” He said that the Sounders’ locker room is “just more fun” than it was earlier in the season when the team had their worst start in years. “It’s been a turnaround completely, and it’s a lot of fun right now. So hopefully we can keep it going.”
One clear influence on this lighter atmosphere is center back Roman Torres, whose return to the squad coincided with their best run of the entire season. And while Morris said that Torres’ on-field presence has been huge for the team, what he brings off the pitch might be even more important. “He’s always happy, always smiling. He’s a great guy to have around. Obviously a great player, but he does so much more off the field.”
As the Sounders’ leading goalscorer thus far in his rookie season, the expectation of clinching a playoff spot may rest on Morris’ shoulders a little more than others. Luckily for the Sounders, a good head already rests on those shoulders; Morris knows how to have fun and enjoy success, but he’s by far one of the most professional players in the Sounders squad. He knows what the stakes are for the Sounders’ last three games, and he seems more than ready to face the challenge. “We know that we still have a job to do and we’ve gotta keep pushing and keep that edge to hopefully make the playoffs.”