Seattle Sounders FC marked one of the highest-profile signings in MLS history Thursday, announcing that Mercer Island forward Jordan Morris would begin his professional career with his hometown team.
Owner Adrian Hanauer called it “another great day for the Sounders.” Coach Sigi Schmid said Morris could grow into the same class of United States-born stars as Landon Donovan. And MLS commissioner Don Garber said Morris represents a “new generation of great American players.”
Now all that remains is finding a way to get him onto the field. And that falls to Schmid, who will try to incorporate Morris into the club’s existing mix of high-profile, high-priced forwards: Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins and Nelson Valdez — designated players all.
“Having too many good players is never an issue,” Schmid said. “… Jordan is a forward (but) he still has the youthful exuberance where he can probably run on the flank for a little bit. How we’re going to play exactly next year, we’ll determine a little bit more into the season. We’re obviously leaning a little bit more to playing three strikers, maybe playing a little more of a narrow front than we have in the past.”
Morris understands if he doesn’t immediately move into the first 11.
“I know you’ve got to work hard and come in and earn everything,” he said. “And I’m excited to try and do that. Of course, I want to be on the field. But there are such good players in front of me that if you pay your dues, I think that’s part of the learning process.”
Schmid said no promises of playing time were made. But he added there will be plenty of minutes available on the first team, and he doesn’t expect Morris to gain experience on the S2 USL team.
“He has some qualities you can’t teach,” Schmid said. “… He has an ability to shield the ball off defenders. He has really good balance. And he has the ability to finish. When you have that and the commitment and dedication to go with it, you can go a long way.”
The news of the signing was no longer a secret by the time it was officially announced. However, the deal had not seemed a foregone conclusion during much of the club’s multiyear pursuit. Schmid admitted he had advised Morris not to stick around for a third season at Stanford. And as recently as last week, German club Werder Bremen seemed a contender for his services.
For all that, Morris said he always figured he’d begin his pro career with the Sounders, where his father, Michael Morris, is team medical director and orthopedic surgeon.
“It was all handled with respect,” he said. “(The Sounders) understood that I needed time to follow the path that I wanted to follow. I really believed that it was going to lead me here; I just needed to figure out the timing.”
Morris, 21, played at Mercer Island High School and Sounders FC Academy in 2012, then he was on to three all-Pac-12 seasons at Stanford and a national championship and the MAC Hermann Trophy his junior year.
He already has seven caps with the United States national team and said he had “open and honest” communications with national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann about signing with the Sounders.
“I’ve lived around Seattle for my whole life,” Morris said. “And I’ve grown up following this club in its USL days and then now in MLS days as well. It’s just a huge honor to be back here. I’m excited to be home and get going.”
Klinsmann told ESPN FC that he is “thrilled” that Morris will play professionally in a place where he is comfortable.
The Sounders open training camp Friday at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila. Morris is expected to begin work with his new teammates about a week later when training shifts in Arizona. Seattle will begin its eighth MLS season at home against Sporting Kansas City on March 6.
“It’s a childhood dream of mine to play with the Sounders,” Morris said. “I remember going to the opening MLS game when they played the (New York) Red Bulls and seeing the atmosphere and seeing the energy in the stadium and just thinking that I want to be on that field someday. To know that that day has come and I’ve signed with this amazing club is awesome.”