Every morning for the past week has felt a bit like Christmas for Jordan Morris. The anticipation, the excitement, the butterflies. Driving from his home in north Seattle past the stadium on the way to Seattle Sounders training at Starfire Sports Complex has been the rough equivalent a child slowly making their way down to the stairs to the tree surrounded by presents.
The only thing that’s been missing is the payoff of opening them. That will happen today when Morris finally suits up and will hopefully get to play when the Sounders face the LA Galaxy.
“That’s what you think about when you’re going through a recovery like this, that moment that you’re stepping back on the field,” Morris told reporters on Friday. “The fact that it’s so close now is pretty surreal. It’s been a long year.”
The last time Morris played at Lumen Field was the 2020 Western Conference finals, a match played without fans due to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. His last time suiting up for the Sounders was MLS Cup, a deflating 3-0 loss.
For a while, those looked like they might be Sounders fans final memories of him in Rave Green. Morris went on loan to Swansea City in the offseason and if it had gone well, it was widely assumed that he’d secure a full transfer, if not to Swansea City then somewhere else overseas.
Instead, Morris suffered his second ACL tear in two years, ending his European adventure after just five appearances. But unlike his previous ACL injury, it now looks like Morris won’t quite miss an entire season while he recovers.
Whether it comes on Monday, in the regular-season finale against the Vancouver Whitecaps next week or in the playoffs, Morris will almost surely get on the field again this year.
“When it first happened, the expectation was that I wasn’t going to play again this year and I was looking forward to next year,” Morris said. “I was telling myself that I wanted to get back as soon as I could, but safely. I went through all those checkpoints to make sure I was in the right state in rehab and just worked really hard to get back as quick as I could. I’m feeling good at the eight-month mark. I did set a goal of getting back this season and helping the team win another championship.”
Morris’ return is actually on roughly the same timeline as his previous one. Both injuries happened in late February. In 2018, Morris was nearing a return when the Sounders were eliminated from the playoffs on Nov. 8. This year’s season, though, was extended due to the Covid-19 pandemic and negotiations over the CBA.
Morris’ 2021 return started to become a realistic possibility about two months ago. He had rejoined training in a limited capacity and after initially experiencing some knee pain, was able to work through that and has been increasing his participation each week. About two weeks ago, his doctors gave him the clearance to fully resume training.
In addition to getting reacquainted with teammates and refining his skills, Morris has also been gaining confidence in his surgically repaired knee by taking tackles and pushing himself in ways you simply can’t replicate on your own. Physically, he may even have some advantages of opponents who are nearing the end of an arduous season that has been more compact than any before it.
“He’s been working, he’s been sprinting, he’s been doing a lot of stuff,” Schemtzer said. “The fitness question? He may have an edge because he’s been working so hard during his recovery. He’s been building that up for a couple of months.”
Morris’ return comes at a particularly opportune time. While the Sounders have mostly managed his absence admirably this year, they’ve hit a recent tough patch that has left them with just one point in their past four. Despite the slump, the Sounders can still win the Western Conference, but will likely need maximum points from their remaining two games to do it.
Tempting as it is narratively, though, the Sounders aren’t looking for Morris to be some kind of savior. But just having someone with his particular skillset — an ability to get behind a defense and beat his man one-on-one — would certainly be useful. Although the Sounders have changed primary formations since Morris last played, he does have experience as both a No. 9 and second striker.
“I’m up for it,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to being back on the field wherever I’m playing.”