SEATTLE – On a day like Sunday, when the Seattle Sounders are hosting the MLS Cup in front of more than 69,000 people, it’s difficult for Jordan Morris not to think about the journey he has had to get here.
In particular, he was thinking about March 19, 2009. That was the day the Sounders debuted as a Major League Soccer club, and Morris was there – as a fan.
“I got emotional before the game because I was thinking about that day,” 25-year-old Morris said. “I was here for the first game 10 years ago and now I’m on a field playing for a championship. It’s special.”
Morris, who grew up in Mercer Island, Washington, couldn’t have known then that he would be lifting a trophy at CenturyLink field after beating Toronto FC 3-1 at the 2019 MLS Cup. As a kid, he couldn’t have known his family would be in the stands, specks in sea of rave green, and he would spot them and get teary-eyed.
But even just a year ago, it might’ve been difficult for him to imagine as well. That’s because of another day etched in Morris’s memory is Feb. 22, 2018.
While play a Concacaf Champions League fixture for the Sounders in El Savador, he tore his ACL. The injury meant he would miss the entire 2018 MLS season. The diagnosis was six to nine months to recover – but many players take longer to regain their touch, their confidence, their ability to impact games. Some players never look the same after an injury like that.
But in Morris’s first game of 2019, he quickly cast aside any doubts about his return, scoring twice in the Sounders season opener. From there, he went on to score 10 goals and notch 7 assists in 26 games, his highest production rate since joining MLS.
“Coming off the injury last year, you dream about moments like this,” Morris said Sunday, with an MLS Cup champion medal around his neck and beer soaked into his jersey after being sprayed by his teammates amid locker room celebrations.
Morris didn’t get on the score sheet in the MLS Cup, but his ability to stretch Toronto’s back line did cause problems for the visitors, which the Sounders exploited.
When teammate Christian Roldan was asked what he’ll remember most about Sunday’s win, which made history for the Sounders and for MLS, he didn’t hesitate to think of his best friend on the team.
“I remember lifting that trophy up with Jordan Morris,” he said. “It’s something that he deserves more than anybody after the year he had last year. If you scratch that ACL year, he’s been to three finals in three years. Without him, we probably wouldn’t be here. I’m so proud of him.”
Not every American soccer fan may share the sentiment. Morris could’ve played overseas, and he turned down an offer from Werder Bremen so he could play for him hometown club in Seattle.
Some U.S. soccer fans would’ve liked to see Morris push himself at the highest echelons of the sport, which includes the Bundesliga in Germany. But in the days leading up to the MLS Cup, Morris wasn’t worried about what critics had to say. Fans may not have moved on from the choice he made, but he has.
“I’m completely happy with my decision,” he said. “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.”
After another MLS Cup win for Morris in front of his family and friends in his hometown, it’s hard to argue that that.