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Jordan Morris: Hat-trick hero

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New position, new attitude, new outlook.

Max Aquino/Sounder at Heart

Whenever FC Dallas asked questions of the Seattle Sounders, Jordan Morris seemed to have the answers.

With FC Dallas having clawed back from a 2-0 deficit in 64th minute of the first round of the 2019 MLS Cup playoffs, the game—and the Sounders’ season—stood in the balance. The Sounders had played well in building their lead, but around the 35th minute, the game turned in favor of the visitors. The Sounders had trouble maintaining possession through halftime and the start of the second half, and by the time Matt Hedges headed home a corner kick to tie the score, it seemed like FC Dallas was the team most likely to come away with a shock victory.

On this day however, Jordan Morris put the Sounders on his back and carried them over the finish line. Having used his pace (and left foot) to score a goal in the 22nd minute, which temporarily doubled the Sounders advantage, Morris put on a full display of his skills throughout the game. In the 74th minute, Morris was able to use his strength and size to position himself between Brandon Servania and the ball, and with the Dallas midfielder draped all over him, drag a flicked-on header from Gustav Svensson into the bottom corner of the net.

And in the middle of second extra time period, Morris added a little perseverance to the proceedings. Having worked hard to maintain possession at midfield, Morris went down with what he called a cramping issue. He stayed down for a moment, but was able to get to his feet and start an offensive sequence. Having made his way into the penalty area, he was rewarded after a mad scramble saw a deflected ball bounce high in the air, and he managed to use his superior athleticism to head the ball in for the winning goal.

After the game, Morris allowed himself to reflect on his accomplishment, which helped the Sounders avoid an early exit. “Yeah, it’s just good to be back playing in a playoff game,” Morris said. “I was out the majority of 2017 and all of 2018, so to be back for this game is special.”

Morris missed the 2017 playoffs when he suffered a significant hamstring injury in September, and his 2018 season never got off the ground when he tore his ACL in February in a Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal match. After a year of rehab, he returned in January of this year with a new outlook on life, knowing how quickly an athlete’s career can be derailed.

“I told myself I was going to have a new attitude coming back this year and not take anything for granted,” Morris said. “It can get taken away for a year pretty quickly. Just having that new attitude has helped.”

Midfielder Cristian Roldan says he’s noticed a new Morris in terms of attitude, skill and physicality. “In the shift to left-mid, him coming back from Gold Cup, he’s been a lot sharper, he’s been wanting the ball, he’s been fitter, [and] I think we’re using him more and using his strengths.”

Coach Brian Schmetzer had high praise for Morris’ play, but made sure to let him know there are still areas of his game that could use improvement. “One of things I showed to [him] was the third [Dallas] goal,” Schmetzer said. “Guy comes clean at the back post, and Jordan doesn’t have anybody picked up, so maybe he could have done a little better in that moment.

“We certainly give [Jordan] praise, because the kid deserves a lot of praise. But we also need to make sure he continues to work; we don’t want to have any of those little let-downs in concentration affect us in the next game.”

Morris will get a chance to build on this star-making performance Wednesday against Real Salt Lake—once again on short rest. It’s a heavy load for Morris, given he saw 135 minutes of action during the international break, and another 115 minutes versus FC Dallas. But he knows he’ll have to be prepared as a winger to put in a big shift offensively and defensively. “I see myself as a winger now, and I’m enjoying it,” Morris said.