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Injury layoff gives Jordan Morris new appreciation for game he loves

Morris returns from three month absence just in time to help his team try to repeat as champions.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

TUKWILA, Wash. — In just about every way, Jordan Morris’ rookie season was a dream come true. The Seattle native was starring for the club he grew up rooting for, the one for which his father worked as team doctor, and living in his childhood home. He finished as the club’s leading scorer, then added a couple more goals in the playoffs that ended with him hoisting the MLS Cup.

His sophomore campaign has not gone so smoothly. Due at least in part to an ankle injury he played through, Morris scored just twice in his first 13 games. Although he got healthy and even scored three goals — including the game-winner in the final — as the United States won the Gold Cup, Morris finished the regular season with just three goals in 23 appearances. Even more frustratingly, he’s been out since Sept. 10 with a hamstring injury.

Morris made his return to the field on Thursday — he was deployed as a left-sided midfielder and nearly scored in his 14 minutes — likely clearing the way for him to have at least some role in Saturday’s MLS Cup final rematch.

“It was tough, it was really tough,” Morris said about his absence. “Mentally, that’s the toughest part just sitting there watching games and wanting to be a part and try help in any way that I could. Obviously, they did amazing and brought us to the final and hopefully I can make an impact in that game.”

Up until now, Morris’ soccer career has been a constant upward trajectory. Since breaking onto the scene by leading the Sounders Academy in scoring as a high school senior, he starred at Stanford, taking the Cardinal to a national championship and winning the Hermann trophy. Along the way, he also became the first college player to be called into the men’s senior national team in about 20 years. Even before he was named MLS Rookie of the Year, many were talking about him as the next great American striker.

Not that Morris ever needed humbling, but he returns to the field with a newfound perspective.

“Just to appreciate being out there more,” Morris said when asked if he’d learned anything while he was out for nearly three months. “It’s what you love to do. When you take a second to take a step back, you realize how much you love being out there playing. I’m just trying to go out there and appreciate every day I have out there. People say it goes by quick. So I’m just trying to enjoy myself.”

If Morris gets on the field for Sunday’s final, it will almost certainly be off the bench.

“I’m totally fine with that,” he said. “It’s been a few months out so I’m just trying to get my fitness back right now. That’s obviously going to be a very intense game, so hopefully if that is my role, just come in and do the best that I can, and work as hard as I can while I’m out there, and try to make an impact in the game. Sometimes that can be a little bit of a spark, a sub coming off the bench in a game like that, where both teams are maybe a little tired at the end.”

Regardless of role he plays, Morris is confident as ever.

“We’re not done yet,” he said. “We want to get that second star and bring it back to Seattle.”

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