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Postgame Pontifications: Jordan Morris is rapidly improving

This may have been one of his best all-around performances yet.

Seattle Sounders vs. Vancouver Whitecaps: Photos Mike Russell/Sounder at Heart

Somewhere around the 70th minute, I took to Twitter to proclaim that Jordan Morris was having a “sneakily solid game” despite not really doing much in the form of creating scoring chances. My thinking was this: Morris was showing some serious skill as a pretty classic No. 9. He was deployed as a lone forward against a pair of physical centerbacks and holding his own.

It was a thankless job — chasing down balls over the top, holding it up long enough to let his midfielders join the attack, staying high up the pitch and generally making sure that Kendall Waston and David Edgar were busy — and truth be told, he was starting to look a bit tired.

Almost right on cue, Morris got a shot off. It was blocked, but it was his first of the game. We all know what happened a bit after that.

Morris worked himself goal-side of Jordan Smith and made a fearless diving header right in front of onrushing Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted. All his hard work, all the thankless running and battling, it paid off in that moment.

In all the hype surrounding Morris’ signing and the expectations that came with it, there has been a temptation by many to consider this a somewhat disappointing rookie campaign. It’s true, Morris hasn’t been dominant. He wasn’t dominant in this game. But he has shown a degree of growth that should have us all excited. This game was a great example of his maturing game, that he’s able to do the dirty and thankless work and still be capable of taking chances when they come.

Oh, and while we’re talking about expectations, let’s note that Morris has now scored as many MLS goals as any American rookie and more than all but two rookies of any nationality. Five of those goals are game-winners, a MLS rookie record.

Nicolas Lodeiro does it again: Truth be told, Lodeiro wasn’t having a great match on Saturday. It wasn’t bad, per se, but teams have definitely decided that they’ll have two midfielders shadow him everywhere and force someone else to beat them. As a result, Lodeiro isn’t finding much space and at times seems to be forcing the action. In this game, Lodeiro completed just 72 percent of his passes and looked rather abysmal on set pieces.

Yet with the game hanging in the balance, Lodeiro came through. Given some space for one of few times all afternoon, Lodeiro put in an absolutely perfect cross to find Morris.

The Uruguayan now has three goals and seven assists in eight games, including a goal or assist in seven straight. Just imagine what he’ll look like when he’s fully integrated.

Roman Torres was a beast: Sure, there’s still some rust. Torres sometimes looks a half-step slow — like when he drifted a couple steps deep and kept Erik Hurtado onside, forcing Stefan Frei to make a rather amazing play to prevent a goal. But on the whole, Torres looks awesome. His deep passing shows some impressive touch and he came up with several big defensive plays.

Just think: This is how he looks after playing fewer than four full games across all competitions in the last year. Imagine what he’ll look like with a full offseason of training.

I’m not wholly convinced the Sounders defense looks better by just swapping Torres for Evans, but I’m really interested to see how it looks when Torres, Marshall AND Evans are on the pitch together.

Path to playoffs becoming clearer: The Sounders now sit four points out of the playoffs with a game in hand on sixth-place Sporting Kansas City. That’s obviously not an ideal position, but it’s far from disastrous.

The Sounders look to be one of five teams battling for two playoffs spots. The good news is that the Sounders have at least a game in hand on everyone above them in the standings and none of the teams they’re battling have more home games remaining.

The current playoff cutoff line looks like it will be 45 or 46 points. To get there, the Sounders are going to need at least 10 or 11 points. It’s hard to see them getting there without winning all three of their remaining home games. That leaves them needing to pick up a couple road points. Their first chance comes on Saturday against the LA Galaxy.