The reports became official Friday, with Jordan Morris joining English Championship side Swansea City on loan for the remainder of the 2020-21 season. The move certainly creates a hole in Seattle’s lineup, though there’s an exciting opportunity for the US men’s national team forward to prove himself overseas after thriving for his hometown club.
From a selfish standpoint, I’d have loved to see Morris stay in Seattle so I could continue to enjoy watching him as a fan and covering him as an analyst. His growth in the last 18 months has been nothing short of extraordinary. Don’t get me wrong, he’s always been good. From the first time I saw him play at age 15 when he participated in a first-team training session during my days with the Sounders, I could see that he had some special qualities. Those qualities are still among his strong points today – raw pace and power – but he has added so much more to his game.
What most stood out during the 2020 season was his composure in front of goal. He found himself in the same positions he’s always gotten himself into, but there was a different demeanor when he was 1-on-1 with the goalkeeper. He looked assured, relaxed and certain that he was going to find the back of the net. And more often than not, he did.
Fans will talk about his goal against San Jose in the 7-1 win because of the great run from the halfway line, but I will always remember it for the finish. It was further evidence of a player that learned how to slow the game down in the final third and apply the right finish. San Jose’s unique defensive scheme also played a significant role, too.
That wasn’t always the case with Morris, especially early on when he often looked rushed and short of confidence in front of goal. He has gotten better each year and that’s why I think the next logical step is to test himself abroad.
There’s simply nothing left for him to do in Seattle. He knows he can run past any MLS defender he wants, lead the team to trophies, score and assist almost at will when he’s on top form and that he's essentially guaranteed double-digit goals if he stays fit. He can do all of that on autopilot in MLS, and so the next challenge is leaving the comforts of home and trying to elevate himself to a new level.
Had Morris stayed in Seattle for all of the 2021 season, I’d have had no problem with it. I’ve come to understand that every athlete is motivated by different things. Some want nothing more than to test themselves at the highest level possible, regardless of circumstance or situation, while others want their off-field life to be a certain way before they decide to look for new challenges. Neither way is better than the other, the only important thing is for the player to be comfortable in whatever they choose.
That’s why I love this move for Jordan – it was his choice. Had he gone to Werder Bremen right out of Stanford, he’d have done it more to appease the “you have to test yourself in Europe” crowd than for any personal reason. As it turns out, the decision to stay home was the right one. He's learned what it means to be a pro; how to win and lose; how to add tweaks to his game; and he’s done all of that while being physically close to family and friends who have supported him as he’s grown into his career. He’s also won two MLS Cups and totalled 35 goals and 20 assists in 105 games.
Now, after achieving all of that, he’s going to Europe while playing the best soccer of his life and carrying a wealth of experience that he simply didn’t have when he left college.
I fully expect him to be a success at Swansea. Of course it’s going to depend on the tactics, his role, what he’s asked to do, how his teammates connect with him and how quickly he can get up to speed. But in terms of ability, I have no doubt that he can succeed there.
His skill set can translate to any league in the world as long as his team plays to his strengths. Playing alongside Nicolas Lodeiro and Raul Ruidiaz, he’s learned how to combine and play quick passes when he comes in from wide areas. It’s not enough to be a winger that can only go back and forth, you have to know when to come inside and connect passes to keep your opponents guessing. He has also learned how to be dangerous without the ball and how to find the balance between being direct and being more subtle in the final third — all traits that will serve him well in the Championship.
The only way this move doesn’t work out is if he gets injured or if Swansea make no attempt to play to his strengths. Anything short of that and I expect Swansea fans to enjoy what we’ve been enjoying in Seattle for the past few years – a player who’s constantly improving and, when at his best, is almost always the most dangerous man on the pitch.