As the Sounders prepare for their third MLS Cup Final in four years, this time in front of a sellout crowd at CenturyLink Field, it’s worth recognizing one of their most important players…who just so happens to be one of the most talented Washington Youth Soccer alumni in 53 years. That player, of course, is Jordan Morris. His journey from Eastside FC to his third MLS Cup Final has been nothing short of epic, and we have a feeling that it’s just the beginning.
The legend of Jordan Morris starts with humble beginnings, but it’s filled with hints of so much more. His soccer story began at prominent Washington Youth Soccer club Eastside FC in 2004, five years before the Sounders even entered Major League Soccer. Morris led the Eastside B94 Red team to six Washington State titles, and racked up a cabinet full of individual honors, including the 2012 Golden Ball, NSCAA Washington State Player of the Year, and NSCAA High School All-American awards.
After honing his craft for nearly a decade with Eastside, Morris entered the Sounders Academy and immediately made an impact on the U18 squad. A stellar record of 28 goals in 32 appearances for the Academy earned him yet another high-profile honor, the 2012-2013 U.S. Soccer Development Academy National Player of the Year award.
After making such a splash in Washington, Morris caught the eye of a number of NCAA programs, eventually deciding on Stanford University.
While it may not have reached the fever pitch of Lebron James’ famous “decision,” there was a heightened buzz around Mercer Island native and current Sounders FC forward Jordan Morris in early 2016. After three wildly successful years at Stanford University, where he won the Division I Men’s Soccer Championship and much-coveted Hermann Award, Morris had a decision to make.
The young forward’s prowess at Stanford had already caught the eye of then-US national team coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, who capped Morris to make him the first college student to earn such an honor since 1999. This skyrocketed Morris into the national soccer spotlight, and so when he announced his decision to leave Stanford to pursue a professional career, an entire country of soccer fans held their breath as they waited for his decision.
But on January 21, 2016, Seattle Sounders FC announced that Morris was indeed coming home. Despite a brief dalliance with German club Werder Bremen in the form of a brief trial, Morris chose to sign a Homegrown Player contract—the largest in league history at the time—with his hometown club.
Rookie of the Year
The hype around Morris’ signing with Seattle was unprecedented for a Homegrown Player announcement. While the media circus wasn’t exactly the same as it had been for his new teammate Clint Dempsey a few years prior (Dempsey is, after all, perhaps the greatest American soccer player in history), but it garnered far more than a photo op with a scarf after a training session.
Soccer media from all over the country joined the usual local reporters and TV crews at The Ninety in downtown Seattle; everyone wanted to get in on the hype. “I lived around Seattle my whole life and I grew up following this club in its USL days, and MLS days as well. It’s a huge honor to be back here, to be back home, and to get going,” Morris said at the time.
And get going, he sure did. Morris set more than one record in his first season, notching 12 goals and four assists in 34 appearances for the Sounders. This was enough to earn him Rookie of the Year honors and help send his club all the way to their first MLS Cup Final—which the Sounders won on penalties against Toronto FC.
Trials & Tribulations
Even though Morris didn’t score in the 2016 Final or take a penalty in the epic shootout that ended the match, his contributions during the regular season and playoffs were monumental in bringing the trophy to Seattle. Even though the Sounders made another run to the final in 2017 in which Morris played a key role at times, his season was blighted by injuries that were a harbinger of things to come.
The young forward was sidelined by a hamstring injury in September of that year, and he didn’t make another appearance until coming on as a substitute in the 71st minute of the final against Toronto. Seattle had just gone down a goal after 66 scoreless minutes, but Morris was unable to bring his team back into it as they eventually fell 2-0 after another late Toronto goal. It was a rollercoaster season for the club and Morris himself, and it ended in a much lower place for both.
But despite that, Morris could take comfort in the fact that he was healthy and could have himself a full offseason and preseason to get ready for 2018. But disaster struck again before MLS play had even kicked off; Morris tore his ACL in the dying minutes of a CONCACAF Champions League match in El Salvador in February 2018. He would go on to miss the entire 2018 season.
The Comeback Kid
It was a tough road to recovery for Morris during that season, when he also had to watch from the sideline as his team were knocked out of the MLS Cup Playoffs in the Conference Semi Finals by Cascadia rivals Portland Timbers. But it turned out that taking as much time to recover as possible was exactly what the young forward needed.
Morris hit the ground running in the Sounders’ opening match of the 2018 season, notching two goals against FC Cincinatti and setting the tone early for both himself and his club. He would go on to score a total of 10 goals and seven assists (a career high!) during the regular season as Seattle stormed to second place in the Western Conference. Morris didn’t slow down once the playoffs started either; he notched a hat trick in the epic win over FC Dallas to send Seattle to the Conference Semi Finals. Though he didn’t score in the subsequent playoff matches against Real Salt Lake and LAFC, Morris played a key role in both of those wins to send the club to their third MLS Cup Final in four years.
All of this was enough to earn Morris the 2019 MLS Comeback Player of the Year award, making him the third Sounders player (after Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson) to earn such an honor.
Jordan Morris, he of humble origins with Eastside FC and the Sounders Academy, is still only 25 years old. For many soccer players, this is the start of their peak levels of both performance and fitness; that looks to be the case with Morris. Whether or not he finds the net on Sunday for his hometown club in front of 69,000 adoring fans is irrelevant, and not just because he’s already accomplished so much in his short career. We have a feeling that Morris is just getting started, and his long list of accomplishments and honors will get even longer by the time he hangs up his boots.
For now, just sit back and enjoy the show. That’s what we’ll be doing.