As the Seattle Sounders embarked on the beginning of their 2021 preseason Monday, coach Brian Schmetzer said there's a clear number one question that needs to be answered.
“What do we do with life after Jordan's injury?” he said on a media conference call Tuesday.
Schmetzer was always planning for Jordan Morris' absence from the moment he left for a loan to Swansea City for the remainder of the English Championship season on Jan. 22.
But the homegrown winger’s ACL injury that ended that loan stint and will require surgery “is a massive blow to the club,” Schmetzer said.
The coach said it was a positive to see Morris at the training ground this week, but that’s where the good feelings around the USMNT attacker end, especially considering how well he jelled with fellow MLS Best XI attackers Nico Lodeiro and Raul Ruidiaz as one of the most feared front three in the league a year ago.
“Jordan's injury is not a positive,” Schmetzer said. “Having the kid here after what happened, yes that's a positive story, but Jordan's injury is a massive blow to the club in the sense that he is a tremendous player. Nico, Jordan, and Raul last year had statistically very, very good seasons. Watching them mid-season, we all got excited. I think the team was playing well, we were scoring goals and those three guys were firing on all cylinders, so that will be the number one question we have to answer in this preseason is what do we do with life after Jordan's injury?”
While there’s no replacing Morris, Schmetzer said he has some options to fill that position. That includes the possibility, which he alluded to last year, of changing shape and playing with two forwards — Ruidiaz and Will Bruin — instead of the usual 4-2-3-1 formation.
There are young players vying for minutes who will be tested during the preseason and then the ability of Garth Lagerway, the club’s general manager and president of soccer, to “pull rabbits out of his hat and get players in the summer,” Schmetzer said.
“I think all along, our idea whether Jordan got injured or not was to go through this first part of the year, find out what's happening with Jordan's loan. Was he going to stay over there, was he going to come back to us, what are the monetary net gains or losses [from] keeping him here, all that stuff and go from there,” Schmetzer added. "In that sense, the plan really hasn't really changed, it just takes on a little bit more long-term significance just because of the nature of Jordan's injury."