After a tour of duty with the U.S. Men’s National Team, Jordan Morris returned to training with the Seattle Sounders Thursday. He made two appearances as a substitute in wins over St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Trinidad & Tobago. The call-up reflected the turnaround in Morris’s fortunes after his exclusion from the Copa America roster in June.
Morris did not light up the score sheet with USMNT, totaling one shot in 47 minutes in the two games. The call-up itself, however, was a reward for Morris for his nine MLS goals as a rookie and adapting to the pro game during a difficult season for the Sounders.
In May, Morris’s absence from Copa raised more than a few eyebrows, since the rookie had gone on a four-game scoring streak that seemed to help reverse Seattle’s early misfortunes after an 0-3 start. The decision to include Chris Wondolowski, with seven goals and two assists, came down to what national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann described as a fifty-fifty decision.
Morris said it was good to be back.
“It’s always an honor to be out there and be with the guys and step on the field and just wear the jersey,” he said. “I hadn’t been in in a little while, had to get a few nerves out, but I felt good towards the end.
“It’s just a different feeling (being back). You’re happier, not dwelling on it as much. (The Copa exclusion) was a big disappointment, but I know that I want to try and step on the field and get a little more playing time, so I’m coming back hungry. I want to keep improving.”
Morris’s next chance for improvement comes on the road against the San Jose Earthquakes Saturday (7:30 p.m., JoeTV). Featuring for San Jose will be Wondolowski, the veteran star picked ahead of him.
The 21-year-old Morris is widely considered one of the rising stars in U.S. soccer. He is in the running to replace Jozy Altidore as a mainstay for the national team, while 23-year-old Bobby Wood, who plays for Bundesliga’s Hamburger SV and the LA Galaxy’s Gyasi Zardes are also on the short list of young American forwards.
To succeed Altidore and, eventually, Sounders teammate Clint Dempsey, who has been sidelined recently with an irregular heartbeat, Morris will have to continue to impress at the club level. Next is a chance to represent the U.S. in the CONCACAF Hexagonal, the six-nation round-robin tournament to determine the CONCACAF representative at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Since Morris did not get much time with the national team, his play with the Sounders will be crucial in staying on Klinsmann’s list for the hex.
Sounders interim head coach Brian Schmetzer said that the development of Morris with the Sounders seemed to be helping more than inclusion with the national team.
“I think from day one, since we’ve seen him, he’s matured,” Schmetzer said. “He’s getting his arms around what it means to be a good pro. So I think that learning curve might just be coinciding with his national team experiences. We talked about him and Cristian (Roldian) being tight on the road. Growing in a pro environment is the way I’d answer that question, I’m not sure it’s this (call-up).
“Is he upset that he hasn’t started the (U.S.) games? I’m sure he is. He’s a competitor, but at the same time I don’t think that that is really the same chip on the shoulder that it was the first time when he got left off the squad.”
If Morris continues to improve, he can be certain of more opportunities to represent home town and country. In the meantime, his experience with the USMNT are proof that his progress hasn’t gone unnoticed in U.S. soccer circles.