SEATTLE – When Jordan Morris was first deciding where he was going to go play professional soccer back in 2016, it seemed like everybody had an opinion on where he should go.
The young attacker had established himself as one of the most enticing prospects in American soccer, racking up his first US national team caps while he was still playing for Stanford University – the first collegiate player in years to do so. So good was Morris, that many on the outside felt like he should have forsaken college altogether and gone pro out of high school.
Even after he became a dominant, national championship-winning collegiate player, many felt that his development for the national team would be better accelerated were he to play overseas, where he went on trial with Werder Bremen of the Bundesliga and had multiple other opportunities on the table.
In the end, Morris decided to sign in MLS with his hometown Seattle Sounders – the club he watched growing up and dreamed of suiting up for.
And outside of a lost 2018 season due to a torn ACL, the results on the field have largely been stellar. Morris won Rookie of the Year and MLS Cup in 2016 and won the league’s Comeback Player of the Year Award in a 2019 campaign that saw him bag 10 goals, seven assists and help the Sounders to Sunday’s MLS Cup Final against Toronto FC, which will be hosted at CenturyLink Field in Seattle (3 pm ET | ABC, Univision, TUDN, TVAS, TSN).
Asked at the Sounders’ media day event in downtown Seattle on Thursday if all of that makes him feel any sense of validation that he made the right decision, Morris said he feels as though he’s demonstrated his growth as a player on the field during his time in MLS, to the point where he doesn’t really feel the need to chest-thump at any of his critics who said playing overseas was the only way for him to truly progress.
“Honestly, I don’t think it has any bearing on anything,” Morris said. “I’m completely happy with my decision, I do get asked that sometimes, but I have zero regrets. The team has obviously been very successful and I feel like I’ve grown as a player here, especially this last year, continuing to grow and develop and MLS is growing and getting better and it’s exciting to be a part of that.
"But for me personally, it would be a dream come true to win MLS Cup in my hometown," he continued. "Obviously, we got one before and that was super special, but to win one here in front of our fans, they deserve it and this city deserves it, so we’re looking forward to it.”
Ahead of Sunday’s MLS Cup, Morris is in the best form of his career.
After considering himself a pure striker while growing up and in his first years as a pro, Morris was officially moved out to the wing after the Sounders signed Raul Ruidiaz last season while he was out with the ACL injury. After initially resisting the move from his preferred role up top, Morris has embraced the change both for Seattle and the national team, and has said he’s grown to enjoy all the fine points and nuances that come with being a wide player.
The move has allowed him to use his athletic gifts and raw speed to attack defenses in increasingly diverse ways and made him a more complete player, as evidenced by this season’s seven assists that represent a career high.
“In terms of Jordan, it’s so great to see him have fun,” Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said. “He’s having the most fun of his career, I think and that in large part has to do with switching from right to left on the wing and I think once he got back from the Gold Cup, he was a bit sharper, fitter, stronger in every single category.
“And he’s getting the final product. Not just scoring, but being dangerous, being a threat, willing to run without the ball. He’s using his strengths of his ability. And I also think the team is willing to play a hopeful ball that Jordan will get there, instead of trying to play out of everything.”
Morris said the novelty of the opportunity the Sounders now have isn’t lost on him.
He now has a chance to help his team win a championship in the very same venue where he used to watch the team as a fan. Even if he would not publicly admit it, a victory might just provide the greatest validation of all.
“I remember going to that first game as a kid and just falling in love with it, the culture here, we have the best fans in the league, they show up game in and game out and help make this a tough place to play,” he said. “Going to that first game inspired me to work hard and try to be on that field, and now it’s pretty surreal that we’re hosting a final here.”