SEATTLE – Jordan Morris is officially back.
If his two-goal outburst in the Seattle Sounders’ 4-1 rout of expansion side FC Cincinnati at CenturyLink Field on Saturday is a sign of things to come, the 24-year-old attacker could be in store for a big 2019.
Making his first appearance in MLS play since missing the entire 2018 season with a torn ACL, Morris hardly could have made a louder return to the fold, first bagging a 33rd-minute go-ahead goal to give the Sounders a 2-1 lead, then adding another just 10 minutes later.
His first tally set off an emotional scene at CenturyLink, with the home crowd erupting as Morris collapsed to the ground before being mobbed by his Seattle teammates.
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“This game is something I’ve been waiting for so long,” Morris told reporters after the game. “I didn’t have any expectation of going out and scoring a goal and stuff like that, I just wanted to be out with my teammates and help them, so it was icing on the cake to get a couple goals.
“It was a similar emotion to [my first MLS goal], a little bit different in the sense that obviously last year was so long and I was still playing my rookie year, but similar in the sense of the lead-up to it, and it felt great.”
Saturday’s performance was an especially encouraging sign for Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer considering Morris is also adapting to a new position.
The Stanford University product is now a full-time winger with Raul Ruidiaz taking over as the club’s starting striker, and he was all over the field on Saturday. In addition to the pair of goals, he sought to set up teammates and was buzzing around on defense.
“The one thing that I was most pleased about is, in his own words, he wanted to be goal-dangerous,” Schmetzer said. “Playing out on the wing, it’s not new to him, because in 2016 we had him out there on the left, but he said to you guys, he wanted to be goal-dangerous and he was tonight. So, I think that is what I’m going to latch onto, using his own words as guidance for him to finish the year on a high note as well.”
Morris also said he came through Saturday’s game feeling good physically and added that he’s feeling close to being able to play a full 90 minutes.
To hear Schmetzer tell it, the rigorous rehab process Morris embarked on last season while he was sidelined might actually have made him stronger physically than he was pre-injury – a potentially scary development for MLS defenses who already have to worry about Ruidiaz and creative midfielders Nicolas Lodeiro and Victor Rodriguez.
“I’m very proud of him because he’s a tough kid and he persevered through some tough times,” Schmetzer said. “ACL injuries, nowadays, they’re not the death sentence they might have been in my day. Guys come back, the surgeries are good, the work they do after surgery is way better than in our day.
“So, Jordan, actually could be a better athlete now because of all the work he did all last season. He has lots of speed, he’s a bit more powerful. That’s helped him.”