SEATTLE – Jordan Morris is finally ready to make his return to Major League Soccer after a year-plus absence due to injury. After a grueling road to recovery, the 24-year-old forward is approaching the game he loves with a new mentality entering the 2019 season.
“It’s been a long year—a long 18 months, really—dealing with these injuries,” Morris said Thursday. “For the first real game back, I think it’s going to be really special. I’m looking forward to it.
Throughout the off-season I was wondering if I was still going to have all my (speed). Throughout the preseason, I’ve felt pretty good with that. I’m feeling like my speed is pretty much the same as it was before my injury. That was my concern, but it feels good.”
Morris has already gotten a chance to stretch his legs on the CenturyLink Field turf against Nacional Feb. 20. The homegrown product looked good physically out on the wings, sending in a series of promising crosses from the right side and showing that his knee looked fully recovered from the torn ACL Morris suffered in El Salvador last February.
As hard as the physical work to get himself ready for 2019 was, Morris said last season’s inactivity was a big obstacle for his psyche.
“I think the tough part was mentally, honestly,” Morris said. “Coming every day to training (and not take part), having to go up in the stands and watch the games. It was mentally draining. There were some really tough times because I couldn’t do what I love. It was pretty difficult. The physical component is hard, but it’s something you push through. The mental component was really tough but I think I came out of it on the other side, learned some things and have a new appreciation for what I do. The chance I get to be a soccer player because that was taken away for a while. I have a new attitude and outlook on it.”
If that new attitude combines well with the mental work Morris did with assistant coach Preki while recovering, Morris may provide significant returns on the new contract he signed with the club in the offseason.
And if Morris is feeling a little antsy about getting back to playing full-time, that’s just how Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer wants it.
“The one consistent theme I’ve always told players is ‘if you don’t have butterflies standing there waiting for the kickoff, waiting for the referee to blow the whistle, there’s something wrong with you,’” Schmetzer said. “It should be exciting. You should feel it. What happens is you use that nervous energy, it turns into adrenaline and it helps you perform better. That’s the narrative that I tell all the players. Certainly, Jordan has heard it. You saw he was pretty emotional after even his substitute performance against Nacional. I think hopefully that’s going to drive Jordan with that little extra bit of energy to perform well.”
Morris has spent the preseason acclimatizing to moving to the wing to make up top with Raul Ruidiaz. Saturday will be the first step in trying to reclaim the magic of his 2016 Rookie of the Year campaign that saw the Sounders lift MLS Cup.