Jordan Morris scored twice in the Seattle Sounders’ season-opening victory over the Chicago Fire despite only playing 45 minutes. His performance spurred a debate about whether he is a member of the MLS elite. The answer is an unequivocal yes.
When Jordan Morris committed to the Seattle Sounders instead of trying his hand at a European club, which would be the pinnacle of global football, many eyebrows were raised, it must be said. Even for an American, choosing to play in Major League Soccer when you are capable of European football seems like an odd decision to make.
Nevertheless, from the moment he walked into the Sounders, it was quite clear that Morris would be a special player. And while there have been ups and downs along the way, including a horrible, season-ending ACL tear and position switch, the 25-year-old has now settled into quite the groove.
On Sunday, Morris was introduced at half-time of the Seattle Sounders’ 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire. Brian Schmetzer’s side had lacked offensive threat and directness prior to his introduction. Morris proceeded to score twice as he rescued his team once again.
This season-opening outing has spurred a relatively obvious but somewhat important debate: Is Morris now a member of the MLS elite? Has he translated his promising athletic abilities and burgeoning technical skills into elite-level production? Can he now be considered in the same range as players like Josef Martinez, Carlos Vela, even his teammates, Raul Ruidiaz and Nicolas Lodeiro? Well, I think the answer is an unequivocal yes.
The Fire showing is just the latest in a long line of match-winning performances. He now has 17 goals and 14 assists across his 32 matches for club and country. This season, he already has three goals and one assist in three appearances across all competitions. This comes after a 10 goal and six assist campaign last year upon his return from the ACL tear.
In fact, since the start of July last season, when Morris returned from international duty at the Gold Cup, he has played 1,115 minutes in MLS. In that time, he has eight goals and five assists. That correlates to a direct goal involvement every 85.77 minutes. It is an outstanding rate over what is now a rather substantial sample size.
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But the numbers only tell half of the story. Morris is not only producing at an elite level, but as any elite player does, he has rounded out his game, worked on his weaknesses, focused on elements that he excels and put himself into positions to best exploit these advantages. He impacts the game in more ways than just producing numbers.
Speaking this week, Morris highlighted the process of changing positions and fine-tuning his game:
"“I said when I switched positions that I still want to be goal-dangerous and try and create chances. It’s a little bit more of taking your guy one-on-one, and I feel like that’s something that’s a strength of my game. As an attacking player your goal is always to be cleaner in the final third. No one’s perfect but when you get those chances, just put them away or put in good balls inside the box. I think there’s times when I get down the line and I still don’t pick people out as well as I want to. I feel like I get a lot of chances to do that, so working on that is always a continuous process.”"
The Seattle Sounders winger has elevated his game to a new level, one that sees him become a member of the curious MLS elite. His performances, and the process of how he is able to produce them, tell the story. Maybe, then, Europe beckons after all.