It is looking increasingly likely that Jordan Morris will soon join Swansea City of the English Championship on a six-month loan, a move that will probably be made official next week.
There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s get to it:
The Championship? Really?
I’ll be the first to admit that I was surprised to hear this was even a possibility. Going to Wales to face teams like Rotherham United and Wycombe Wanderers — no offense, lads! — probably isn’t the future we all envisioned for Morris if and when he finally left his hometown team. But it makes more sense if you look at the bigger picture.
What’s the bigger picture?
There are two major factors to keep in mind: 1. Swansea is currently in position to gain promotion to the Premier League; 2. It’s a six-month loan. In other words, this is effectively an extended trial. If Morris plays well, it sets up a bigger move. Maybe that’s moving up alongside Swansea, maybe it’s somewhere else. Either way, I don’t think there’s much chance of Morris sticking around to play in the Championship next season.
Yeah, but weren’t bigger teams interested?
At least one report suggested teams like Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg of the Bundesliga and Serie A’s Fiorentina had pursued Morris. I have no idea how aggressive their attempts were or whether they wanted full transfers, but there’s at least some logic to choosing Swansea. While Morris would have needed to fight for playing time at any top-flight destination, he’s likely to get plenty of minutes in Swansea’s 3-5-2. Not only that, but the level of competition shouldn’t be too big of a step up — again, no offense to Rotherham and Wycombe fans! If Morris can get 20 appearances — Swansea will play 23-27 games between now and the end of the season — it’s not at all hard to imagine him scoring 8-10 goals and suddenly looking a lot more attractive to potential suitors. It probably also doesn’t hurt that Swansea coach Steve Cooper is apparently a big fan of Morris and that the team is owned by American Jason Levien.
If Morris plays well, the hope is some team with be willing to pay the Sounders something like $5-$7 million for his rights. Either Swansea will makes it a permanent transfer or a bigger team will swoop in with an offer that is more likely to come with closer-to-guaranteed playing time.
Is there a chance he comes back between the loan and a permanent transfer?
That seems extremely unlikely. Morris will have just finished playing a pretty heavy schedule and European preseasons usually start up in early July. Not only that, but Concacaf is still planning to play the Gold Cup from July 10-Aug 1. It’s hard to imagine Morris skipping his offseason just so he can play a few more games with the Sounders, risking injury along the way.
So that’s it then?
All of this is predicated on the assumption that Morris plays well enough that he convinces someone in Europe to meet the Sounders’ valuation. It’s obviously possible that he doesn’t play well or just decides he’d rather spend his career in Seattle. In that scenario, he’d could be back as early as June. Even if he didn’t rejoin the Sounders until after the Gold Cup, he’d be back in plenty of time for the playoffs.
What’s in it for the Sounders?
There’s no real sugar-coating this: the Sounders don’t really stand to gain anything in the short term, aside from a relatively small amount of salary-cap space. On the high side, they can probably claw back something like $600,000 for a half-season worth of salary and allocation money. The best-case scenario is they’d have the ability to bring in a MLS veteran to temporarily plug the hole and then maybe make a splashier signing over the summer. But the chances of replacing Morris’ production player-for-player — especially considering he doesn’t occupy a Designated Player spot — are far-fetched, to say the least.
What about long term?
Let’s just assume someone is willing to pay $7 million for Morris’ full transfer. That’s more than the Sounders have collected from all their outgoing transfers in their history and is roughly equivalent to the most they’ve ever spent on an incoming player. In other words, that’s a significant amount of money that would presumably be re-invested. Even without an open DP spot, the Sounders could still put that toward bringing in a player or two under the “U-22 Player Initiative.” I wouldn’t expect that to bear much fruit this year, but it could leave them better off long term.
Beyond that, by accommodating Morris’ wishes, the Sounders send a clear signal they’re a dynamic member of the transfer ecosystem by being both a seller and a buyer. Currently, the only MLS teams who have both bought and sold players for at least $5 million are Atlanta United and the New York Red Bulls.
Look, we should consider ourselves lucky to have enjoyed watching Morris for as long as we did. Since making his debut with a Rookie of the Year campaign in 2016, Morris has steadily improved various parts of his game and has become a bonafide star over the past couple seasons. Along the way, he’s helped lead the Sounders to four MLS Cup finals in five years, scored 41 goals and contributed in countless ways to the larger community. He’s accomplished just about everything we could have hoped for, and leaves the Sounders in a better place than when he signed. Let’s wish him well.