TUKWILA, Wash. – Before his 2018 season even started, Jordan Morris was dealt the biggest setback of his career.
The Seattle Sounders’ Homegrown attacker and 2016 MLS Rookie of the Year was nearing the end of his first game of the year – a Concacaf Champions League match in El Salvador – when he went down late in the second half with what turned out to be a torn ACL. That injury kept him out for the entire 2018 MLS campaign.
Coming on the heels of a disappointing and injury-plagued 2017, whether or not Morris would be able to regain the form that had seen him hailed as one of the most highly-touted prospects in US Soccer was an open question.
With a clean bill of health in 2019, Morris has answered that question emphatically. He started 24 games for Seattle this regular season, logging 10 goals and seven assists. But the best was yet to come.
And on Tuesday, it was announced that Morris had won the 2019 MLS Comeback Player of the Year Award.
“You have those dreams when you’re coming back and you’re visualizing this kind of stuff,” Morris told reporters after Sounders training on Monday. “You always have those doubts, you never know what the knee is going to feel like or if you’re going to come back being the same player. Obviously, those doubts happen everyone once in awhile, so to be where I am now, I was looking back talking to my family and my girlfriend about where we were a year ago and to be here now is obviously super special.”
In addition to simply being healthy, Morris said an increased comfort level with his role at both the club and international level has helped fuel his comeback campaign.
After coming up as a pure striker, both the Sounders and US men's national team have deployed Morris out on the wing full time since his return to action. Out wide, he’s used the blinding speed that remains his biggest asset to not only free himself up for looks on goal, but also set up teammates.
After previously resisting the change, Morris says he’s grown to embrace it and now enjoys the multi-faceted nature of his new role.
“When I was playing [on the wing] in the past it was kind of like an obligation and I would have rather been up front,” Morris said. “But now I see that as my position and moving forward and it’s where I want to play. I definitely see myself as a winger now and I’m enjoying it.
“I think I’m playing with a confidence and a new energy, kind of a new fire this year,” he added. “I think last year, sitting out for a year, I told myself I was going to have a new fire and new energy and appreciation for the game coming back, and I definitely have that.”
Feb. 22, 2018: Torn ACL. His season was over just as it began.— Major League Soccer (@MLS) October 22, 2019
Oct. 19, 2019: Scores first career hat trick to lift @SoundersFC to conference semis.
Today: @JmoSmooth13 is the Comeback Player of the Year! 💪 pic.twitter.com/zUt2bQq6kP
The Sounders took a gamble by signing Morris to a lucrative contract extension in the offseason after the ACL injury, betting that he would be able to recapture his old form and help lead the team on another MLS Cup run.
So far, it seems to be paying off. Morris said the overall body of the work that he’s achieved since signing with Seattle – which includes a Rookie of the Year Award, an MLS Cup title and now the Comeback Player of the Year – is evidence that he made the right decision when he chose to join his hometown club over opportunities he had to play overseas.
“I have no regrets at all,” Morris said, “Players are different and I feel like I’m continuing to progress here and get better here. Different players choose different paths and need different things and for right now, I definitely have no regrets and I’m really happy to be here. I love playing for my hometown team and fighting for championships here and winning it in 2016.
“No regrets at all, just super happy to be here."