TUKWILA, Wash. – Seattle Sounders rookie forward Jordan Morris has impressed throughout much of his first season in MLS. But he’d still probably just as soon forget his first rivalry match against the Portland Timbers.
Morris narrowly missed a point-blank look that would've been the game’s opening goal in the 17th minute of the season’s inaugural matchup between the sides at Providence Park on July 17, a fixture that the Timbers would go on to comfortably win 3-1.
It wasn’t an ideal debut against his team’s most heated rival. But as Morris and the Sounders gear up for Round 2 against Portland, this time at CenturyLink Field on Sunday (9:30 pm ET; FS1 in US, MLS LIVE in Canada), the 21-year-old says he has his sights set on redemption.
“I’m the first one to admit that I’ve missed chances this season. Finishing is something that I need to keep working on,” Morris told reporters after Seattle’s practice on Friday. “But if you think about chances you’ve missed in past games, it’ll just put more pressure on you. It’s hard to do but you’ve got to forget about those.
“Obviously, I’d love to put my stamp on the rivalry and score a goal and help the team win.”
The team that will take the field for Seattle on Sunday isn’t the same one that got blown out at Providence in July.
That iteration of the Sounders didn’t have midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro – a season-altering addition for Seattle since joining the club as a Designated Player in July – nor did it feature star forward Clint Dempsey, who had to sit out the contest due to a red-card suspension.
All told, those additions should make for a much different dynamic this time around, something Timbers coach Caleb Porter touched on in an afternoon conference call with the media on Friday.
“I think they're a different team now," Porter said. "[Morris is] a good young player, extremely athletic. He needs to get a bit more polished at times around the goal but that’ll come with time. But then you add Lodeiro and look at their front four, they have some nice dimensions that collectively fit together really well.
“Lodeiro has really changed the game for their team. He’s someone we have to be aware of but we also have to be aware of Morris, of Dempsey and [Andreas] Ivanschitz. Those front four guys are very good and they have a lot of freedom to interchange and move and we have to be organized.”
If the stakes for Sunday’s match weren’t high enough given the rivalry component, the postseason implications at hand should add another layer of intensity. Coming into the game, the Sounders have 27 points on the season, just five short of the Timbers for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.