Sounders FC

Playing in the MLS Cup in front of his hometown crowd is a ‘dream come true’ for Mercer Island’s Jordan Morris

Dr. Michael Morris remembers the excitement that surrounded professional soccer in Seattle even before MLS arrived. He remembers taking his young son, Jordan, to see the earlier editions of the Sounders play in city center.

And he remembers one particular trip to watch the team play when his son collected a special souvenir.

“When he was really little, like he was maybe 6 years old, the USL Sounders were playing at Memorial Stadium,” said Michael Morris, who is now the Sounders’ chief medical director. “Dicky McCormick and them were throwing balls into the stadium, and he caught one of the balls. He was pretty excited about that.”

There were many moments scattered throughout the years, when Jordan Morris, a Mercer Island native, connected with Seattle’s professional soccer community, long before he played for the Sounders.

When he was a teenager, he watched the Sounders’ first MLS game against the New York Red Bulls in 2009 at what was then known as Qwest Field. He remembers what the energy was like that day.

“I think Seattle is such a passionate sports city in general, but the team was immediately embraced by the fans when they started here,” Jordan Morris said. “I remember going to that first game as a kid, and just falling in love with it.”

His enthusiasm for the team he grew up watching hasn’t wavered. He joined the club in 2016, following stints with the Sounders Academy, the U.S. Men’s National Team and three decorated seasons at Stanford, and has grown into nothing short of a homegrown hero.

Now, at 25 years old, he is preparing for his third MLS Cup appearance — and this time has a chance to play it at home Sunday afternoon, in front of the biggest soccer crowd in Seattle history.

“For me personally, it would be a dream come true to win an MLS Cup in kind of my hometown,” Jordan Morris said. “We got one before (in 2016 in Toronto), and that was super special, but to win one here in front of our fans — they deserve it, and the city deserves it.”

And so does Morris, who has been loyal to the Sounders from the beginning. Before he signed with Seattle, he was offered a prestigious contract by Werder Bremen of Germany’s Bundesliga. He said in a press conference Thursday in Seattle he remains “completely happy” with the decision to stay stateside.

“I have zero regrets,” Morris said. “The team obviously has been very successful, and I feel like I’ve grown as a player here — especially this last year. … MLS is growing and getting better, and it’s exciting to be a part of that.”

Morris had a breakout rookie season in 2016, scoring 12 goals, and started the majority of the Sounders’ matches the following year, before missing the entirety of 2018 with a torn ACL.

But he responded with another stellar campaign this season, contributing 10 goals and seven assists in 26 regular-season appearances, and adding a hat trick in the first round of the playoffs against Dallas to keep Seattle in contention.

“We’ve got the best Jordan Morris we’ve ever seen right now,” Seattle general manager Garth Lagerwey said.

Lagerwey will be one of many rooting for a big performance from Morris on Sunday in front of his hometown fans.

Not just because of Morris’ on-field ability, but because of his off-field connection with the community, and particularly kids who also have also been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, which Morris has dealt with since he was 9.

“He’s an amazing person,” Lagerwey said. “If my kids could grow up like anybody, I’d want them to grow up like Jordan Morris. He’s another completely sincere person, and what you see is what you get.

“He’s kind. He meets with kids who suffer from diabetes after every single game — win, lose or draw — and he’s kind and compassionate and thoughtful and hardworking. … While he strikes fear on the field, I think he’s about as nice of a person as you could possibly imagine off the field.”

Lagerwey said Morris resonates with fans because his approach is “authentically Seattle.”

“I think it’s the ethos that a lot of the community here understands, and he really evokes the values of the city,” Lagerwey said. “I think that’s why the crowd gets behind him. And, man, it’s going to be fun to have 69,000 people cheering for him when he goes on a breakaway in the final.”

Morris said launching his foundation after he joined the Sounders — which is designed to “educate, inspire and support the lives of children with Type 1 diabetes” — as well as participating in other charitable activities with the club has been important to him.

“I love this city,” Morris said. “The outreach that this club does in a lot of ways is really special. … It’s amazing to use sports as a platform to (help others). I think that’s one of the coolest parts of being a professional athlete.”

“He goes out of his way to help other kids deal with the same thing he’s had to deal with, so he’s a very good ambassador,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said.

Beyond success on the field, Morris said he tries to play for a bigger purpose — inspiring all kids to “just keep working hard and keep dreaming big.”

“I went to that first game, like I said, and I dreamed that I wanted to be on that field,” Morris said. “And those kids that come on Sunday … if they want to be on that field someday, just keep dreaming big.

“Going to that first game inspired me to work hard and try to be on that field someday, and now it’s pretty surreal that we’re hosting a final here.”

Anything is possible, he says, and he hopes the Sounders can deliver the same energy Sunday that captivated him as a kid.

“I think people are going to fall in love with the game, and the team, and the sport if they haven’t already here in Seattle, and it’s just going to be great for the city,” Morris said.

Lauren Smith covers the Seattle Mariners for The News Tribune. She previously covered high school sports at TNT and The Olympian, beginning in 2015. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and Emerald Ridge High School.