Wilfried Nancy’s brief MLS coaching career has already elevated several standout players. His time in charge of CF Montréal featured a best-in-club-history campaign and individual breakthroughs from the trio of Djordje Mihailovic, Alistair Johnston and Ismaël Koné, who reaped somewhere around $20 million in combined transfer fees from European clubs last winter.
The 21-year-old central midfielder was the man of the match on Saturday at Lower.com Field, scoring his second and third career goals in a 4-0 thumping of Real Salt Lake, the Crew’s second straight blowout home win and a microcosm of how instrumental Morris has been in the Ohioans’ solid start to life under Nancy.
His game-winner was a particularly gorgeous sequence, reflecting both the speed at which Columbus have soaked up Nancy’s positional-play concepts and the tantalizing potential that remains to be mined.
“It’s a collective. I think the coach has done such a good job,” Morris told reporters afterwards, alluding to the “process” and the “little details” that are making his team “more free-flowing” as they adapt to the first year under their France-born head coach. “It kind of gives you an easier picture of when to arrive in the box and when to make better runs.
“It’s everything we work on,” the once-capped US international later said of his opener, a frozen rope of a finish made possible by a clever backheel layoff from Lucas Zelarayán. “I’m not going to spoil our tricks, but … just making the movement, trusting my teammates and the ball’s at my feet.”
Nancy has set about expanding Morris’ toolkit from the deep-lying role he’d previously manned, entrusting him with an all-round, box-to-box role that’s racked up some dazzling numbers over the season’s first month, marrying precise distribution to a relentless work rate and a growing instinct for when to join the attack.
“The fact that he scored, we knew as a staff that he was able to score, it was not an issue for that,” said Nancy postgame. “Now what I like about Aidan is that he was not happy about his game. And this is Aidan. He likes to all the time challenge himself.
“This is the, I don’t know if I’m going to say it well in English, but the learning curve, and he’s spot-on on it, because he’s processing a lot of things. But again, this is Aidan. He was good also defensively to win a lot of balls high on the pitch and to anticipate all the balls also defensively. And offensively yes, today was not his best game but he scored, so good for him. the fact that he scored, I’m going to be more demanding with him.”
A few weeks ago Morris, a homegrown academy prospect who transplanted himself from south Florida to central Ohio as an adolescent, gave the Columbus Dispatch a glimpse of his ambitious approach to career development, reflecting a demanding outlook on his own self-improvement. On Saturday he underlined that mentality in the aftermath of his best outing in a Crew kit to date.
“It’s awesome,” Morris said of his Eastern Conference team’s sudden surge, marked by 10 goals on their last two matchdays. “I mean, for now. We’ve got a lot more work to do. Job’s not done.
“I think ‘comfortable’ is the wrong term,” the MLS Cup 2020 winner said of his current form. “It’s just challenging. Coach does such a good job of challenging me and pushing me every single game, giving me a test to kind of approach and take on. So I’m loving every second of this.
“So yeah, on to the next.”