TUKWILA, Wash. – Jordan Morris hasn’t played an MLS game in over two months now, sidelined since he strained his hamstring in the Seattle Sounders’ 1-1 draw against the LA Galaxy at CenturyLink Field back on Sept. 10.
The Sounders have fared well in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs without him, vanquishing the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Conference Semifinals and taking a 2-0 aggregate lead into the second leg of their Western Conference Championship series with the Houston Dynamo at CenturyLink Field on Thursday (10:30 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes, TSN 1, TVAS 2).
But it would certainly be an added variable to the Seattle attack should the reigning MLS Rookie of the Year make his much-anticipated return.
Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer has never been one to divulge much when he’s asked about injuries, usually defaulting to what has become his go-to line of calling whatever player happens to be in question a “tough kid.”
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Asked about Morris after Monday’s practice at Starfire Sports Complex, Schmetzer did indeed pull out his favorite term of endearment. But he also indicated that the 23-year-old at least stands a chance of featuring on Thursday.
“He’s fine, he’s a tough kid,” said Schmetzer. “He’ll be ready.”
Whether being “ready” actually translates to “making Seattle’s 18 for the second leg” remains to be seen. But if Morris does feature – even as a second-half substitute – his pace and athleticism could be an asset against what is already a shorthanded Dynamo backline.
Ozzie Alonso’s situation appears to be more dicey. The defensive midfielder is nursing a quad strain that has kept him sidelined for two of Seattle's three playoff matches so far.
Seattle’s other defensive mid, third-year man Cristian Roldan, said on Monday that he feels comfortable with whoever else might line up next to him, whether it’s Swedish standout Gustav Svensson or Nicolas Lodeiro dropping back from his normal post in the attack.
“I think [playing with Svensson compared to Alonso] is extremely different,” Roldan said. “With Gustav I can play more as a No. 8. I have more time during the game to get forward and try and make my impact offensively.
“With Nico I have to be extremely steady. He’s a guy that has characteristics of going forward and I just have to be mindful of where he’s at. With Gustav, we have a little bit more of a natural two-man defensive mid type of game.”
In any case, with goalkeeper Stefan Frei questionable for Leg 2 as he works his way back from a hamstring strain and stalwart center back Roman Torres also out due to a yellow-card accumulation suspension, the Sounders will be relying on their depth to see them through.
It’s nothing the Sounders haven’t dealt with before, however. Schmetzer said he feels the way his team has dealt with injury absences throughout 2017 gives him reason to feel confident in that depth ahead of Thursday’s match.
“Ozzie, Jordan, Brad [Evans], we’ve had other injuries along the year, we had some guys starting slow,” Schmetzer said. “It’s just a testament to guys that are willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win. I think it’s part due to the mentality of that group because we have a bunch of leaders on the team.