There should be little debate that Christian Pulisic is the best player in the United States men’s national team player pool. The 21-year-old is in the midst of what’s shaping up to be a bit of a breakout campaign for Chelsea, already having set a career high with five league goals in just 11 appearances this season. In all competitions, he’s got six goals and six assists in 17 appearances.
It’s tempting to conclude that on the strength of this performance alone that he’d be the overwhelming favorite to win the USMNT’s Player of the Year award later this month.
I suspect that’s how the voting will likely go (update: it is how it went, but it was reasonably close with Pulisic getting 38 percent and Morris getting 35), but if someone is going to pull off the upset Jordan Morris has a very solid case.
This award, after all, is not necessarily intended to go to the best player, but to the player who had the best season and in that sense Morris’ shapes up rather nicely.
When including all of Pulisic’s production for 2019, he tallies 15 goals and 11 assists in 42 appearances for club and country. In addition to his Chelsea tallies, Pulisic had five goals and three assists for the USMNT as well as four goals and two assists for Dortmund during the second half of the 2018-19 season where he was somewhat limited by injuries and by the knowledge that he was no longer in their longterm plans after agreeing to transfer him to Chelsea.
On the international stage, most of Pulisic’s production came in the Gold Cup where he helped the USA to a second-place finish with three goals and three assists.
Morris enjoyed his best-ever professional season after missing virtually all of 2018 with a knee injury. His 18 goals and 13 primary assists for club and country represented the highest total among all USMNT-eligible players. That three of those goals came in the MLS Playoffs and that he helped lead the Sounders to MLS Cup has to further bolster his case. Morris also had a standout performance on the international stage, leading all Americans with five goals and seven assists. Four of those goals and four of those assists came during Concacaf Nations League play where the USMNT finished at the top of its group.
It won’t be some sort of travesty if Pulisic wins the award over Morris, but I think the gap between them in terms of production even when corrected for level of competition is not as big as the perception may be.