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Jordan Morris earned his spot in MVP conversation

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His game-breaking ability is what makes the Sounders one of the favorites to win MLS Cup.

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Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

It’s a little amusing to think about it now, but when the Seattle Sounders gave Jordan Morris a rather hefty contract extension after the 2018 season, it was met with a significant degree of skepticism. The doubts came from national journalists, as well as from plenty within the fan base.

The skepticism was born mostly out of the reality that Morris had only put together one very good professional season and was coming off a knee injury that cost him all of the 2018 MLS season. He was also without a clear position, as the Sounders had just signed Raúl Ruidíaz to the most expensive deal in team history.

Now two seasons into that five-year extension, it’s looking like a pretty good deal for the Sounders.

Not only has Morris outperformed his contract, but in 2020 he established himself as a legitimate MVP contender.

The numbers do a decent job of making the case, both traditional counting stats and the advanced analytics. Morris’ 10 goals and eight assists this year make him the only player in the league to rank in the top 5 for both categories. He also ranks fifth in the league in goals+assists from open play per 90 minutes, meaning without the help of penalties. His most compelling stat is G+, which suggests he’s responsible for adding the second-most goals of any player in the league. The statistic was created by American Soccer Analysis as a way of attempting to quantify the various contributions a player makes to scoring goals.

What makes Morris stand out as a potential MVP candidate is the degree to which he’s able to impact matches.

Jordan Morris production

Season Goals Assists Minutes G+A/90
Season Goals Assists Minutes G+A/90
2016 12 4 2856 0.50
2017 3 1 1801 0.20
2018 0 0 0 0.00
2019 10 7 2047 0.75
2020 10 8 1724 0.94

While Morris is almost unstoppable when he’s running at defenders in transition — where 10 of his goals and assists came from — he’s also become a dangerous player against set defenses.

Even when Morris isn’t scoring or setting up others, his speed stretches back lines and his willingness to take on defenders off the dribble pulls them out of shape. This was the part of his game that many doubted he’d be able to develop. Not only has Morris developed this part of his game, he’s become one of the Sounders’ more dangerous players in such situations.

There’s no doubt that Morris benefits from being surrounded by other dangerous players, but his game-breaking ability also makes those around him better. It’s that X factor that takes Sounders from a very good team to one that is rightly among the favorites to repeat as MLS Cup winners.

Nicolas Lodeiro is probably the player most deserving of MLS MVP this year, but Morris’ inclusion as a finalist is well deserved.