clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Postgame Pontifications: Jordan Morris looks ready to explode

After an up-and-down 2022, Morris’s opened the 2023 campaign with one of his best-ever performances.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

SEATTLE — When a team wins its season opener 4-0, there are going to be a ton of positive angles. There were no shortage of them from the Seattle Sounders on Sunday, from João Paulo’s return to Nicolás Lodeiro’s fitness to Héber’s quality to etc., etc., etc.

But for my money, the performance I was most encouraged by was Jordan Morris’s.

All of those other players are important, but I also tend to think that their possible ranges of outcome in 2023 are a bit contained. We know what kind of impact João Paulo, Lodeiro and Héber are likely to have on this team, and to some degree those are baked into our expectations.

I’m inclined to think Morris’s range of possible performances is a bit wider. Based on what we saw against the Colorado Rapids, it looks like Morris may be a bit closer to reclaiming his MVP-contender form of 2020 than many anticipated.

It wasn’t just that he scored two goals, his first multi-goal game since relatively early in the 2020 season. It was both how he scored them and everything else he did in the game.

Morris ended up finishing the game with 2.4 Expected Goals + Expected Assists. Best I can tell, that’s a personal best for him and a Top 5 mark in MLS since 2020. While those stats are a little inflated because he was actually credited with two relatively high-probability shots on his first goal — he basically scored off his own rebound — it also doesn’t count what would have been another high-probability chance that he set up. That was the assist to Cristian Roldan on which Morris was ruled offside.

While he was definitely ahead of the second-to-last defender, it still showcased some of that breakaway speed and the type of pinpoint passing that he has shown when he’s at his best.

Morris’s second goal was arguably a bit fluky as well — and again generated a ton of xG — but what I really liked about it was how opportunistic he was. One of the things that Morris seemed to be missing from his game last season, for instance, was that sort of dogged determination to get into the box and score ugly goals. This was a chance off a corner kick that deflected off at least three other players before finding its way to Morris, who was able to beat defender Cole Basset for the decisive touch.

“It was a weird one,” Morris said with an uncharacteristically big grin following the match. “It all happened quickly. Nico put in a good ball and it was just sort of bouncing around and I just tried to do whatever I could to put it in the net. They all count the same.”

Perhaps the play that has me most excited about Morris’s potential to explode this season came earlier in the match when the Sounders were still trying to grab a decisive third goal, as it showcased the kind of power and explosiveness that he had seemingly lost.

Morris starts the play on the right wing and is played into space by Alex Roldán. Morris easily runs past the right back, gathers the ball and makes a decisive turn toward goal. Although Andreas Maxsø has a good angle, Morris is able to basically hold him off while picking out Héber streaking for goal. That Héber’s shot is saved is a shame, but should not take anything away from Morris’s play.

I’m sure I’m reading too much into one performance, but I was also struck by how much more relaxed Morris seemed to look on the field and in the postgame locker room. Maybe he simply feels better physically now that he’s had a full season of playing after his second ACL tear — notably his 2020 breakout came on a similar calendar. I think there could also be a mental weight that’s been lifted. He’s no longer fighting for a World Cup spot and after signing a new five-year contract, I suspect he’s less worried about trying to make a move to Europe.

Whatever the reason, Morris was smiling freely, even joking. This is not a side of him we get to see too often, as he’s been playing under a microscope ever since Jurgen Klinsmann gave him a surprising USMNT debut while he was still in college.

Morris has always said that he tries to tune out any external chatter and that his motivations come from the pressure he places on himself. Whatever the source, he seems committed as ever to rebound from a 2022 that was frustrating at the club level for both the Sounders and himself.

“The taste that was left in our mouth last year was really bad,” he said on Sunday. “I think with the long offseason we weren’t able to right the wrongs of last season. I think you saw the energy and excitement to be back on the field and put in a good performance. It’s been a long offseason. There’s a different hunger this year because you don’t want to have that feeling again.”

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Sounder At Heart Weekly Roundup newsletter!

A twice weekly roundup of Seattle Sounders and OL Reign news from Sounder at Heart