SEATTLE — Life on the pitch is pretty good for Jordan Morris right now.
After another game spent torturing the opposing team’s back line, the now-confirmed winger has added four goals and five assists in nine appearances since returning to the Seattle Sounders from the Gold Cup. Throw in some contributions on defense, and you have arguably the Sounders’ most valuable player this side of Nico Lodeiro.
Morris’ eight goals are second most on the team and his six assists are tied for second most. His 14 combined goals and assists are the third most among USMNT-eligible players in MLS. Given his production, it should come as little surprise that he’s again been called into the United States national team for a pair of upcoming friendlies.
“As a forward or winger things come in bunches and stuff happens when you gain confidence,” Morris said. “I have some confidence right now and I think playing on the left has helped a little bit.”
Morris’ contributions were essential in consecutive wins against the Portland Timbers and the LA Galaxy, setting up both goals against their biggest rivals to win the Cascadia Cup and then notching a goal and assist to help keep the Sounders ahead of the Galaxy in a tight Western Conference playoff race.
The victory against the the Galaxy was especially important as it catapulted them into second place and created some breathing room for a playoff spot ahead of a road match against the Colorado Rapids in which the Sounders will have a heavily depleted squad.
“He’s pretty dangerous,” Coach Brian Schmetzer said after the game against the Galaxy. “These games [at the end of the season] are certainly up-and-down affairs. Teams are desperate for points and they’re throwing numbers forward and that suits his game.”
Morris’ goal against the Galaxy was one of his most timely this year. With the Sounders having given up a two-goal lead, Morris worked a one-two sequence with forward Raul Ruidiaz and was one-on-one with Galaxy keeper David Bingham. Morris was able to read Bingham’s actions on the play and slot home a goal from about 16 yards out. It was a similar strike as one he scored against Sporting KC a few weeks earlier.
“I think it’s just situational,” Morris said. “If [Bingham] is coming out really hard and maybe comes out a little bit farther then I can try to take it around him. I thought he came out and kind of stopped so I had the chance to bend it around him there.
“For me, it’s a little bit situational and sometimes when the goalie comes out and he’s in the process of moving…after the Kansas City goal, I think I saw him coming out and moving so it made it tough.”
Morris also played a role in the decisive goal, playing Brad Smith through into the penalty box, who sent the ball across the goal-mouth for midfielder Cristian Roldan to slam home for the winner. That sort of link-up play has been a relatively new development for Morris, who already has more assists in 21 matches this year than he had in his 57 career league appearances heading into 2019.
“Moving [Morris] to the left has made him a little more dynamic,” Roldan said. “He favors his right foot but he is very sneaky and he isn’t afraid to go down the line. His ability to be on the half-turn and run though people and use his speed against other players’ momentum...he’s utilizing all of his strengths right now.”
Morris’ ascension from nearly 18 months of injuries (a 2017 hamstring injury derailed the last three months of the season, and he missed the 2018 season with an ACL injury) from his rookie-of-the-year debut in 2016 obviously means good things for the Sounders on the field. It also makes the decision by the Sounders front office to sign him to a lucrative contract extension this past offseason a prescient one. News of that contract was met with considerable criticism at the time, though the most lucrative years in the deal were non-guaranteed options.
Morris has often been a lightning rod since spurning an offer to sign overseas with German side Werder Bremen, with everyone from fans to former national team players taking shots at him. Combined with the injuries, Morris has endured some trying times, but he seems to have come through the adversity the better for it.
“I’ve struggled with some injuries, and sometime things are going well and then I’ve had a setback and that’s been the run of things for me the last couple of years,” Morris said. “It’s something to push through and for me it’s just important to take care of my body so I can be on the field.”