It’s safe to say that Jordan Morris’ rookie season with the Seattle Sounders didn’t exactly start out as planned. The team lost three straight games to open the year, and Morris was struggling to put the ball in the back of the net. Even though the Sounders’ fortunes didn’t improve much until mid-season, Morris scored his first goal in week 6 against the Philadelphia Union, opening the floodgates for his 12-goal, Rookie of the Year campaign. This year, so far, has had a much better start for Morris—though he’d still like to be even better.
“Obviously, maybe there are some games we wish we could’ve won and personally finishing a few more chances, but I think that’ll come as the season comes on.”
Morris came into his sophomore season as a pro with not only his personal achievements of last season, but an MLS Cup winners’ medal as well. He has already scored in league play this season, in week 3 against the New York Red Bulls, and the Sounders seem to be in much better shape than they did at this time last year. Not only has Morris’ confidence grown this season, but his comfort with his teammates has as well. “I definitely feel more comfortable with the guys, and having a year under my belt is great.”
Despite their brilliant championship run last season, the Sounders didn’t get to have too many games with their top attacking players all on the pitch at once. Morris was mostly stable, but suffered from some nagging injuries. Nicolas Lodeiro didn’t arrive until halfway through the season, and Clint Dempsey had to step away just weeks after that to get treatment for his irregular heartbeat. While the experienced, creative duo of Dempsey and Lodeiro are the keys that unlock the game for Seattle, they aren’t the same without Morris’ finishing abilities ahead of them.
Now that all three are playing together regularly, the challenge is to get them in sync not only with each other, but with the rest of the team. Morris acknowledges how difficult it’s been to get on the same page with his teammates regularly. “It’s always tough, that’s the toughest part of the game, to put together attacking movements and score goals and stuff.” He acknowledged how helpful it’s been to not only have Dempsey back, but also to get another creative player like Harry Shipp in the mix. “Lot of new faces, with Harry out there and Clint coming back, both are such great players. Still, finding that chemistry is tough, especially playing a lot of games away from home.”
The Sounders are in the middle of a long stretch of road games, and even though they aren’t absolute must-wins, it would make things much easier down the road. “If we could get some wins out of those, that would be big later this season when we have home games to catch up on,” Morris said. And even if it tends to be more difficult on the road for the Sounders, Morris made it clear that they don’t approach such games with a different mindset. “We don’t mind playing on the road, we go up there with the same mentality...you change a few things, but you go out there and try to take the game to them and try to get three points.”
Of course, Cascadia rivalry matches tend to be an entirely different affair, something that Morris experienced plenty of last season. He scored in two Cascadia matches last season, one in Portland and one against the Whitecaps in Seattle. After a couple of very tight, physical matches against Vancouver near the end of last season that were both decided by late winners for Seattle, Morris said that the key is to fight until the very last second. “They can be scrappy at points, but you just gotta battle and fight. I think we scored late goals in both those games to pull off wins, so we know that things might be tough at first, but just keep fighting and working hard.”
Friday’s match could also be the first time that Fredy Montero faces his former club, and that Morris faces his former hero. He remembers seeing Montero in the early days of the Sounders in MLS, while Morris was still a teenager. As a player, Morris was inspired by Montero’s style and admits that “it’ll be weird to see him on the other side of the field, but I’m excited to play against him.”