SEATTLE – Jordan Morris didn’t want to be a supersub on Sunday, but in the Seattle Sounders’ season-opener against Chicago Fire FC, that was the role in which he found himself.
With the Sounders on a quick turnaround coming off a Concacaf Champions League game on Thursday, Seattle head coach Brian Schmetzer elected to bring Morris off the bench, despite protestations from his Homegrown attacker to be included in the starting lineup.
“When we first started the conversation of him [not] starting on two and a half days rest – which is a tight turnaround for sprinters – he was actually pissed at me. He was upset,” Schmetzer said. “He was like, ‘No, coach, I want to play.’”
In the end, the decision paid handsome dividends.
After a sluggish first half that saw the Sounders locked in a scoreless deadlock with the Fire at the break, Schmetzer unleashed Morris to start the second. Following a goal from Chicago’s debutant Robert Beric, Morris took over with a performance that was nothing short of dominant.
The 25-year-old was all over the field, scoring the tying goal in the 62nd minute and narrowly missing assists on a couple of others. Then, in second-half stoppage time, he capped it off with a game-winning goal to give the Sounders all three points to start their 2020 MLS campaign.
“His anger turned into, ‘Ok, I’m a team guy and I’m going to accept this decision,’” Schmetzer said. “I could just tell when we had spoken to him about getting warmed up and he was coming in at halftime, I could just see on his face that he was motivated.”
Morris admitted after the match to feeling some initial frustration at not being able to start. It was, after all, the first game of the season and a celebratory event at that, with Seattle unveiling the banner for their 2019 MLS Cup title in front of a raucous home crowd before kickoff.
Ultimately, though, while he hopes that he will get to a point where the team doesn’t feel the need to manage his minutes on these quick turnarounds, Morris said he understands the reasoning.
“I was a little frustrated,” Morris said. “I think it’s the first game, you always want to be out there. But I always respect the coach’s decisions and do what’s best for the team and that was my role for today
“I know that the type of player I am, I’m a little bit higher risk for muscle injuries and they talk to me about that all the time, it’s just an ongoing conversation. They’re always looking out for me and I appreciate that."
Morris’ individual effort was impressive to be sure, but he was given plenty of help from teammate Cristian Roldan, who assisted on both of his goals. The two almost combined on another in the second half, but Roldan’s finish off a Morris cross wound up getting waved off on video review for offside.
With the addition of Brazilian midfielder Joao Paulo and the impending return of Gustav Svensson, Roldan is expected to be playing higher up the field with greater frequency this year. To that end, Sunday’s match was a potential preview of the type of Morris-Roldan combination play that could be a frequent feature of Seattle's play this year.
“He was playing a little bit higher up the field in the second half and he’s a creative player,” Morris said. “Obviously we have really good chemistry off the field and I think that translates on the field as well, knowing each other’s movement and stuff like that. We’ve played together a lot here and with the US [national team]. He put in two really good balls and I was just fortunate to be able to finish them.”