Despite having a few big name rookies, the Seattle Sounders never had one enter the season with as much hype as Jordan Morris. Any label of greatness was applied, a silly podcast/TV show called him the Stanford Messi. Others, myself included, considered him the next Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey. He was to save American soccer, or something. Already a National Team player, the expectations were, and continue to be, extraordinary.
A funny thing happened during his rookie year. So far, we’ve seen Jordan Morris the specialist. While he’s been good, he has yet to dominate. This is not a discussion about his left foot. Instead, when looking at the broader skillsets displayed we’ve seen Jordan Morris go from uncomfortable rookie, a front-to-goal striker, to poacher, to speedster and lately he transformed into a raging bull.
Morris’ game is evolving. It’s different through portions of his first season. With Stanford and the Academy he used every tool, in every game, because he dominated that competition. With MLS this season he seems to use a tool for the match and makes that tool work.
During Seattle’s first run of success in 2016, when he scored in four straight matches while the team won three of four, Jordan played mostly as that front-to-goal man. He took players on, creating shots for himself and finishing. There were times when he would poach a bit too. Other players shot, he picked up the scraps and slotted it home. He was the sole offense. The burden was his. He took it. This was the era of Jordan “Neagle” Morris.
Over the past few weeks a different Jordan Morris has appeared. He did not need to be the sole focus of the offense. Clint Dempsey was back to being his creative and poaching best. Nicolas Lodeiro offered throughballs, long balls, crosses and nifty little passes. How would Jordan fit into this version of the Sounders?
He changed. At first it was Jordan the speedster whipping past fullbacks and centerbacks like traffic cones. The cutback passes and crosses were quite effective. A high-line against Jordan “Zakuani” Morris was not going to work. Quickly other teams adjusted. They sat back.
Jordan showed them that he could adjust too. Now, Jordan “Barrett” Morris came at them. A full head of steam with the ball at his feet or in holdup play, the broad-bodied 21-year-old did something new, yet again. A bull moose charging towards goal, a single defender would not stop him. Two defenders would not stop him. Seventy-four yards and a series of defenders, with one eventually fouling him stopped him.
This is a complex and nearly complete forward in the modern game. He can channel powers from more specialized and limited players. He is taking what the game is giving him and excelling. No longer cautious Jordan Morris evolved into a smart MLS player who can do what his team needs from him.
Here is a scary thought (if you aren’t a Sounders fan, or a thrilling thought if you are) - what happens when Jordan Morris channels all of that at once? Even without his left foot that will be the final evolution for the native son. It is what will take him from one of the top five performances by a rookie forward to a player in the Best XI conversation. It will be an evolution where top European teams shower Lagerwey and Morris with cash.