After deploying the rookie striker centrally as the lone forward at the top of Seattle’s 4-2-3-1 formation for much of the latter part of the regular season, Sounders interim head coach Brian Schmetzer opted to start veteran Nelson Valdez in that role on Sunday, moving Morris to the left wing.
Morris didn’t score a goal. but the 22-year-old could make a credible case for being the best player on the field, using his dynamic pace and explosiveness to create multiple opportunities and tally the assist on Seattle’s second goal – a tap-in from midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro that gave the Sounders a 2-0 lead in the 55th minute.
“I liked it,” Morris said of the role change after the game. “I was playing a little out of position and staying a little bit higher. I like it out there because there’s a little more space. You can get the ball and run at people.
“Nelson is a more of a forward that likes to have his back to goal. That’s not me as much. So he does really well holding the ball out there, and it was good to get some space out wide and try and take some people on and create some stuff.”
Schmetzer noted Morris’ adaptation to the role after the game, saying he was pleased with how he executed the different responsibilities that came with it.
“He’s a smart kid,” Schmetzer said. “Went to Stanford. He understood the tactical responsibilities that we gave him tonight and executed them very well. I was very happy to see him going at guys, picking out balls.
“I thought he was very, very good. Tactically, very sound.”
Playing out wide isn’t an entirely foreign concept to Morris, who was deployed there to mixed results at points earlier in the season.
But if Sunday’s match ends up being any sort of breakthrough, the Sounders’ attack could become that much more dangerous as they look to parlay their recent momentum into a run at the franchise’s first-ever MLS Cup.
“When I’m playing out wide, it’s different,” Morris said. “You can get the ball and take people on more. You can’t necessarily do that when you’re playing center forward by yourself up there. Having Nelson up there kind of occupies the center backs and lets me be a little bit wider and have the one-on-one situations. I think it was good.”