TUKWILA, Wash. – The MLS season can be both a physically and mentally demanding endeavor for any player, let alone one going through their first season as a professional like Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris.
But for Morris, the proverbial rookie wall doesn’t seem to be an issue. In fact, his first season as a Sounder seems to be following the exact opposite trajectory.
“He’s still growing, man,” Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey told reporters after Seattle’s practice at Starfire Sports Complex on Thursday. “It’s the end of the season and not only is there no rookie wall, but he’s stronger than ever.”
As the Sounders take a 3-0 lead into the second leg of their Western Conference semifinal series with FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium on Sunday (9 pm ET, FS1, FOX Deportes | TSN2 in Canada), the 22-year-old Homegrown product is coming off one of his better performances of the season.
Morris repeatedly bull-rushed the FCD backline throughout that first leg fixture and tallied the assist with a pinpoint cross on midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro’s goal in the 55th minute that put the Sounders up 2-0.
He bagged that assist with his oft-criticized left foot, a willingness to adapt that Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer pointed to as a quality that has allowed him to thrive at a point in the season when some rookies may have faded.
“Early on, people were saying, ‘Oh, his left foot, left foot, left foot,’” Schmetzer said on Thursday. “Well he scored a massive goal in LA [on Sept. 25] with his left foot. He had a really massive assist with his left foot the other night. So I think he’s improving on that technical piece of his game.”
“I think overall he’s making strides but by no means is he a finished product. I think his ceiling is higher.”
Morris scored 12 goals during the regular season, an MLS rookie record for an American-born player and the main reason he finds himself as a finalist for the league’s Rookie of the Year honors along with Philadelphia’s Keegan Rosenberry and NYCFC’s Jack Harrison.
But his progression can also be seen in his propensity for setting teammates up with opportunities of their own.
“It’s not all about goals,” teammate Herculez Gomez told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “He’s learning how to be a more complete player and how to [be] more of a team player and contribute more when he’s not scoring.”
Given all the noise that accompanied Morris’ arrival to MLS as one of the most highly touted prospects in league history, it may have seemed far-fetched that he would live up to all the hype. But as he and the Sounders look to advance past FCD and make a run at the team’s first MLS Cup, it seems as though he’s doing exactly that.
“I wouldn’t even call it hype,” Gomez said. “Hype is when it’s not merited, I think.
“I don’t think he has any kind of chip on his shoulder. He doesn’t care about proving people wrong. He just wants to prove himself right.”