It is tempting to suggest that after leading the Stanford men's soccer team to their first-ever College Cup title that Jordan Morris has now proven everything he can at Stanford. (Yes, I suppose there's still the possibility that he could fail to win the Hermann Trophy -- the sport's equivalent to the Heisman -- giving him one more thing to win, but that's something largely out of his control.) But that's a bit of a misnomer, as it assumes Morris could actually prove anything in the college game at this point.
This is, after all, a player who has already scored a senior international goal against Mexico, appeared in a World Cup qualifier and is now getting regular call-ups to the United States national team. Not to belittle the level of competition he's facing at The Farm, but it's been awhile since anyone seriously wondered if he was the best player on the field in a game where the clock actually counts down.
Just look at Sunday's game as a snap shot, or even just his two goals. The first was a simple enough finish, but look at how he lets the first pass go through and then peels off his run. Look at how he recognizes the time and space he has, setting his feet before blasting his shot.
His second goal is even more impressive. Morris is between two defenders, with one clearly taking away his favored right foot. Morris lets the ball run just enough, shields the defender and opens himself up for a left-footed chance. He then does his best Obafemi Martins impression, gently putting his shot over the keeper and inside the far post.
Morris is not like any college player we've seen in quite some time, and not just because he's the first to receive a USMNT cap since 1997. He will be a good professional player, the only question is when will we start to find out how good.
If Morris hadn't been such a motivated student, the Sounders would have happily signed him straight out of high school ... or after his freshman year ... or after his sophomore year. The Sounders have made no secret that they've already offered to make him the highest-paid Homegrown Player signing in league history, an offer they've made very clear still stands.
By all appearances, though, Morris is not a player who's driven by money. This is a kid who grew up on Mercer Island, and whose father is the Sounders' team doctor. Making a six-figure income will obviously be nice, but it's not going to change the way he's accustomed to living. Education is clearly an important family value. Finishing his degree is apparently a thing he wants to do, even if he never intends to use that Stanford diploma. Virtually every interview he gives, Morris talks about the bond and camaraderie he feels with his collegiate teammates. These are the things that have kept him in school this long.
While proving something to the soccer-analyzing world may not have been important, winning that title surely affects his thinking. Morris reached the collegiate mountaintop with a group of teammates and coaches he obviously is very fond of. Chasing the unquantifiable benefit of that experience is surely another part of why he stuck around. If Morris felt he owed something to them or his school, it's safe to say his debt is paid. Stanford has trophy cases full of various Division I national titles, and now they finally have one in men's soccer. That will be Morris' Stanford legacy. Given what we know about him, it wouldn't be a massive shock if he still returns to Palo Alto, but I'm inclined to think his coaches and teammates may now actually encourage him to test his game at the next level.
It should also be said that this kind of loyalty seems to bode well for the prospects of him joining the Sounders. Off the record, club officials have expressed some fears that Morris forgoes MLS and bolt for Europe. And he certainly could. Although there aren't any firm rumors about European teams trying sign Morris, players with far inferior skill sets and resumes have found gainful employment on the continent. That's especially true if there's a certain European soccer legend and national team coach putting in a good word. Moving to Europe might even advance his standing with Jurgen Klinsmann, a coach who preaches the importance of players going outside their comfort zones.
But the only thing as consistent as Morris' willingness to talk up the personal connections he's made at Stanford is his stated plans to eventually sign with the Sounders. Aside from outside speculation, he's never really given anyone reason to think he wants to start his professional career anywhere else. Being able to play in front of friends and family on a regular basis has some obvious attraction for this self-proclaimed home body.
That the Sounders have been so willing to let Morris make this decision on his own timeline is another point in their favor. When and if the time comes for him to go to Europe, he can draw comfort from knowing that they'll likely do right by him then, too.
One way or another, it seems like we're going to find out soon about Morris' immediate plans. So far, he's deflected attention to focusing on what his team just accomplished. That's fine. We can wait. But the tea leaves sure look like he'll be joining the ranks of the professionals sooner than later.