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Jordan Morris officially joins Swansea City on loan

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Sounders will likely have a massive hole they can’t immediately fill but could see a big payday down the road.

Jordan Morris is spreading his wings. The Seattle Sounders Homegrown player officially joined the EFL Championship’s Swansea City on Friday. The deal is structured as a six-month loan with an option to buy at the end. Although Morris won’t be available for Saturday’s FA Cup match, he’s expected to be eligible for Wednesday’s match against Brentford.

Although Morris could theoretically rejoin the Sounders in the summer, there’s a good chance this is the last we’ll see of Morris for the foreseeable future. The exact amount of Swansea’s buy-option has not yet been reported, but Sounder at Heart has learned that it will easily set a club record. At $7 million — a low estimate, one source said — the fee would eclipse the combined total of transfer fees the Sounders have ever collected and be more than they’ve ever spent on an incoming transfer. Based on what Swansea spent on players of a similar age and resume the last time they were in the Premier League, an eight-figure buy-option seems entirely reasonable.

“He has big ambitions to play in Europe and he had a lot of offers, so to think that we have got him is a really good thing,” Swansea City manager Steve Cooper told the team website. “It’s a different challenge for Jordan, but we are looking forward to working with him.”

Morris was offered several options to join a top-division team on a permanent transfer this offseason, Sounder at Heart has confirmed. However, those offers were not as lucrative as the potential payout if Swansea exercises their option to buy. Additionally, moving somewhere like the Bundesliga in the middle of their season would have presented a steeper learning curve, been more of a challenge to earn playing time quickly and would have closed the door on a straightforward return to the Sounders, something Morris was apparently keen on keeping as a possibility.

“When our club signed Jordan as a Homegrown Player prior to the 2016 season, we said at that time he was a unique individual with a special relationship with Sounders FC,” Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey said in a team release. “That sentiment is as true today as it was then, and we have worked directly with Jordan and his family on completing this loan agreement as he looks to take a seminal step in his career.

“As one of the finest soccer players Western Washington has produced and an even better ambassador for our community, Jordan means a great deal to our fans, our club and the Puget Sound region. We know he will represent us well as he begins his journey in English football, and we wish him luck as he prepares to aid Swansea in its push for Premier League qualification. At the end of the day, this move is all about Jordan and what he wants from his career. Our club and city are behind him as he embarks on the next phase of his journey, and should he return to Seattle at the end of this loan, we know he will be stronger for the experience.”

While a move to the English Championship is not exactly the level most would have imagined for Morris coming off a Best XI 2020 campaign, there is a clear logic behind it. One big factor is that Swansea’s American ownership group, which includes Sounders President of Business Operations Peter Tomozawa, was enthusiastic and made Morris feel welcome. The technical staff also graded Morris particularly well.

Beyond that, playing in the second division in England will likely be a smoother transition than trying to carve out time at a top-flight club somewhere else in Europe. As much as Morris has improved the more technical aspects of his game over the years, his best qualities are still speed and power. Those attributes should translate well to the Championship.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Morris will be guaranteed a starting spot. Jamal Lowe and Andre Ayew are the current starters in Steve Cooper’s 3-5-2 setup, and both are enjoying productive seasons. Lowe has 9 goals in about 1,800 minutes while Ayew has 8 goals and 2 assists in about 2,000 minutes. Morris will also have a to learn slightly different role than the one he’s been filling for most of the past two years, as Swansea plays with two forwards who tend to have a good deal of freedom in their movement, and don’t feature winger.

“I expect all those players are going to push each other,” Cooper said. He has the speed to threaten in behind defences, which is something we like in our team. “We will look to help him get up and running, but we respect he has had a long journey and it’s a new part of the world for him.”

Assuming Morris can break into the rotation and produce, he’d be in position to make the jump to the Premier League with Swansea. Currently, the Swans are second in the Championship — and thus in one of the two automatic promotion spots — but only two points clear of third-place Brentford. Morris will have plenty of chances to earn minutes as Swansea will play somewhere between 22-27 games between now and the end of the season, depending on how far they advance in FA Cup and if they have to compete in a promotion playoff.

Either way, Swansea’s season will end in May. Even if Morris returns to the Sounders once his loan is over, chances are he won’t be available until early August. That’s because he’d not only have to wait for the summer transfer window to open — July 7 — but also to finish up with the Gold Cup, which is scheduled to end on Aug. 1.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the Sounders are likely to make any serious attempt to replace Morris in the meantime. Even with the salary-cap space and allocation money they should now have available — courtesy of Swansea covering his full salary, but not paying a loan fee — all indications are that the Sounders are inclined to hold onto most of that until the summer. In the meantime, the Sounders are probably going to give youngsters like Ethan Dobbelaere, Shandon Hopeau and Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez, and veterans like Kelyn Rowe, a chance to fill the void. There’s also a decent chance the Sounders will bring in another MLS veteran, but certainly no one who would be expected to replace Morris’ production.

If the transfer becomes permanent, Morris will be the third Sounders Academy player the team has sold and almost certainly the most expensive one. It’s entirely possible his transfer fee will eclipse the combined total of every sale the Sounders have made in their history, and it will likely be among the top 5 in MLS history. As a Homegrown Player, the Sounders won’t need to share the fee with MLS and can convert up to $1 million of that into general allocation money. The rest of the transfer fee can go toward things like future transfer fees or other team expenses. Even without an open DP spot, MLS will eventually allow teams like the Sounders to spend unlimited transfer fees on “U-22 initiative” players.

Short as this may leave the Sounders, it fair to say he’s exceeded any reasonable expectations from when he first signed.

Since spurning the Bundesliga’s Werder Bremen after winning a second consecutive NCAA title at Stanford, Morris has spent five seasons in MLS in which he’s helped lead the Sounders to four MLS Cup finals and two titles. In the four seasons in which he was healthy enough to play, he averaged 8.75 goals and 5.0 assists per regular season. He also had 6 goals and 3 assists in about 1,250 playoff minutes. His most recent season was easily his best, with 12 goals and 9 assists in about 2,200 minutes across all competitions.

“I’m very proud of the player and professional that Jordan has become. He’s been a large part of this club’s success and has more than earned this opportunity to ply his trade abroad,” said Sounders Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said in a team released. “This particular move gives him a chance to showcase his skillset and opens a number options for his future. On top of that, I am excited to watch him play for Swansea.”