Programming note: This summer in this space, we’ll take a look at a different American player each week instead of doing some sort of update on multiple Yanks abroad. This will be an opportunity to delve into some players we don’t normally feature in this space and evaluate their chances with the USMNT, their future prospects, other important things to note with them, or any combination of the three.
Club: Seattle Sounders (MLS)
The majority of American players not selected by Jurgen Klinsmann to the roster for the Copa America Centenario have seen little or no change in their national team stock over the past month. Jordan Morris is an exception to that rule.
Despite being passed over by Klinsmann during the squad selection process, Morris has surprisingly seen his standing improve since the start of the summer.
His professional career is just underway, but Morris is no stranger to success on the soccer field. A native of Mercer Island, Wash., a suburb of Seattle, Morris began his youth career with powerhouse Eastside FC, helping the club to six state titles between 2004 and 2012 and two third-place finishes at the US Youth Soccer National Championships in 2011 and 2012. He joined the youth academy of the Sounders — for whom Morris’ father works as a doctor — for his senior year of high school before heading south to play collegiately at Stanford.
During his three-season stay in Palo Alto, Morris developed into one of the hottest youth prospects in American soccer. As a freshman in 2013, Morris was named first-team All-Pac-12, tallying six goals and seven assists to lead Stanford to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009. That success led to Morris’ first call up to Klinsmann’s national team, though he didn’t play for the team until November 2014, when he took a leave from leading Stanford to its first Pac-12 title since 2001 to play for the USA in a defeat to Ireland.
A few months later, Morris was again called up by Klinsmann for an April 2015 friendly against Mexico. The then-20 year old made his first start for the senior side and scored his first goal, jumping on a loose ball and finishing under the onrushing keeper to give the USMNT a 1-0 second-half lead. With the goal, Morris again saw a major increase in his status as he instantly became another Great American Hope in the minds of the United States fanbase.
Since, that upward trajectory has only continued. In the fall, Morris lifted Stanford all the way to the national title, scoring five of his team’s 12 goals in the NCAA tournament and two in the national title game. For these achievements, Morris was awarded the MAC Hermann Trophy as the best player in college soccer.
He then announced that he would forego his senior season with the Cardinal to turn professional. Morris went on trial to Bundesliga side Werder Bremen, recording an assist in a friendly and doing enough to warrant a contract offer from the club. However, Morris decided to spurn the offer in favor of returning home to begin his career with the club he grew up supporting, the Sounders.
That decision was heavily criticized by some, but it has proved to be a wise one. The one thing Morris needs more than anything else is playing time, and he’s received a ton of it during his debut MLS season. He’s played in all 16 MLS contests for Seattle, and after failing to score in his first five games, he’s tallied six goals and an assist in his last 11. His best game yet in a Sounders shirt came this past weekend, when Morris was a constant threat and scored Seattle’s equalizer following a brilliant turn in a 1-1 draw with Toronto FC. The youngster has only gotten better through the course of his first season, and while his team has struggled, Morris himself has taken to the MLS quite nicely.
While Morris was busy lighting up the MLS, the USMNT was struggling to produce offensively at the Copa America. Bobby Wood did a good job up top, but when he was suspended in the semifinal, the Americans were blasted by Argentina and had little presence going forward. Whether or not Morris would have made a difference on the scoreline in that game is irrelevant. He would have been a better choice to start than Chris Wondolowski, who was mercifully subbed off at halftime after hardly getting a look in the first 45 minutes. Had Morris been there, he could have at least tried to make something happen.
Moving forward, Morris will be given ample opportunity to earn a starting spot for Klinsmann, and with good reason. Regardless of what happened during the Copa America, Morris is going to be a key part of the USMNT both now and in the future. And, as he’s proving with Seattle right now, he’s developing just as quickly at club level. At his current rate of improvement, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Morris leading the line for both the United States and a top-flight European club in the not-too-distant future.