CARSON, Calif – The word 'phenom' gets thrown around more than it should these days, but for Jordan Morris it might be appropriate.
For the 2016 MLS Rookie of the Year, success has come at a rapid pace. Already an MLS Cup winner with Seattle and a US national team regular, it wouldn’t be surprising if something like the USMNT's January camp has already become old hat for the young forward.
Despite that familiarity, the 22-year-old knows he still has some growing to do.
“Definitely still feel like I have a lot to learn,” Morris said after the United States' training session on Thursday. “It’s good to know some of the guys and feel a little bit more comfortable coming into camp, and all the veterans are great welcoming the young guys in. Obviously it’s a new coaching staff, so trying to come in and impress.”
The staff he has to impress – head coach Bruce Arena and his assistants who came with him from the LA Galaxy – are plenty familiar with Morris. The Sounders attacker started all three of Seattle’s games against LA moving between wing play and the striker position.
In the two clubs’ final meeting of the year, the Sounders' 4-2 victory on Sept. 25, Morris managed a brace in a game that showed off both his speed and intelligence. Morris was first called up by Jurgen Klinsmann while still in college at Stanford but found himself occasionally left off rosters during his MLS rookie season.
Arena was pretty sure of where he wanted to use Morris.
“He’s gonna play the same positions here that he played with Seattle,” said Arena. “Striker, outside midfield. More of an attacking player; if he’s wide it can be with three attackers up high.
“He’s a good player; we’ll move him around a little bit and see where he fits best. Obviously, his best position is some form of a No. 9.”
His abilities as a pure striker haven’t gone unnoticed, but he also has shown strength and tenacity defensively that is needed when playing wide in a 4-3-3. Morris and Arena haven’t talked extensively yet, but their comments show that they’re on the same page when it comes to his ideal role.
“Whatever can get me on the field, I guess,” said Morris. “My preference is I like to play up front, like to play forward. Obviously with Seattle I played a little bit out wide in the playoffs and stuff like that, but definitely I think up front is preferred.”