Much like any other sport, rookies in MLS typically don’t make huge impacts.
Of course, this sentiment comes in the wake of Cyle Larin’s incredible 17-goal campaign for Orlando City last year, but it’s worth overcoming our recency bias to realize just how rare that was. Prior to Larin, Damani Ralph held the record for most goals scored by a rookie in MLS with 11.
Thus, it makes it that much more impressive that Seattle Sounders rookie Jordan Morris has 12, giving him the most ever for an American rookie in MLS.
For a man with sky-high expectations, and a long line of critics willing to tear him down, Morris is erasing all doubts that he belongs in the upper echelon of American soccer. Morris scored two goals on Sunday for the Sounders, and they simply could not have come at a better time.
The Sounders are currently five points back of fifth place Sporting Kansas City, and in very real danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since they joined MLS back in 2009. Additionally, a nationally televised visit to the second place LA Galaxy wasn’t exactly what the doctor ordered for a team desperate to win three points.
I guess nobody told Jordan Morris.
For his first goal, Morris used the outside of his right foot, combined with his blazing speed, to beat his defender one-on-one, then blasted one past the keeper into the top left corner. For his second, he calmly corralled a loose ball, moved it on to his weaker left foot, and coolly tapped it past the L.A. goalkeeper for his second on the day.
When asked about Morris’ performance, Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer replied, “Big-time players come up in those moments and make a difference in games. Jordan’s performance was a big-time performance tonight.”
It’s important for American fans to realize just how big time this performance is. After Morris came from college soccer at Stanford to scoring against Mexico overnight, he became somewhat of a legend in American soccer circles. However, with a slow start to his MLS career, coupled with the rise of Christian Pulisic, Morris’ stock as the “next big thing” in American soccer slowly flat lined.
With his recent performances in MLS, Morris has reinserted himself back into those conversations, as well as a possible role with the national team.
While Morris has always been an incredible athlete with sublime speed, he has made demonstrable progress in the technical areas of the game since joining MLS. Just a few months ago, he would have never dreamed of finishing with his left foot by choice, as he did on Sunday, but has grown more comfortable with using both feet over the course of his rookie season. Additionally, Morris has learned to balance his speed with maintaining good touch, a skill that helped him blow by the defender for his first goal on Sunday. Clearly, progress has been made toward developing a more complete game for Morris.
Furthermore, he has shown just how clutch he can be in the difficult moments that occur in tight contests in MLS. Morris’ second goal on Sunday was his fifth game winner of the season, a record for MLS rookies. For a national team that prides itself on the grit to snatch a goal in the dying moments, Morris’ ability to find those late holes in the defense is paramount.
While he may never be good enough to live up to the insane hype that surrounded him while he was at Stanford, Jordan Morris is certainly making great progress in MLS. Both Sounders and USMNT fans will be hopeful he can continue this development track.