Breaking Down Jordan Morris' Seattle Sounders Debut

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Ah, the wait is over. Jordan Morris made his much-anticipated professional debut for the Seattle Sounders on Tuesday night in a 2-2 draw at home against Club América in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal battle, and the results were resoundingly positive. Morris helped set up both Seattle goals and nearly bagged one of his own.

The Sounders tossed their young prodigy right into the fire, starting Morris on the right wing in a 4-3-3 formation. The decision paid immediate dividends as Morris almost got his name on the scoresheet just a dozen minutes into his professional career. A 12th-minute Sounders corner kick pin-balled around in the box before finding Morris’ head point blank in front of the América net. Morris instinctively put his head to it and the effort was on frame, but the ball ricocheted off a defender and was parried away at the goal line by América goalkeeper Hugo González.

In the 35th minute, América strung together several passes in a beautiful build up and circumvented their way deep into Seattle territory. But just as an América attacker was about to rifle off a shot at the top of the box, Morris appeared out of nowhere and disrupted the dangerous opportunity, winning the ball back for the boys in green. While the hustle play wasn’t the most noteworthy contribution the Sounders’ Homegrown Player made on the night, it was certainly the kind of play that endears a youngster to veteran teammates and coaches.

Later, Jordan Morris showed off a gorgeous first touch in the 42nd minute when he chested down a long pass near midfield and quickly dished the ball off to Clint Dempsey in space. Dempsey’s darting run ended when he was fouled just outside the box, which led to a marvelous Dempsey golazo on the subsequent free kick.

Then in the 51st minute, Morris turned a seemingly innocuous cross attempt from a congested part of the pitch into a corner kick. It was the classic “blast the ball off the opponent in hopes of a corner or throw in” desperation ploy when a player lacks time and space, but sure enough, it worked. Dempsey found a seam at the far post and headed home the ensuing corner kick to complete his brace. So, while Morris didn’t record a goal or an assist on the night, he did provide a helping hand in setting up both tallies.

Morris spent most of his 85-minute shift up top on the right wing before being subbed out for Darwin Jones, but he did briefly slide over to the center forward spot when Nelson Valdez came off in the 74th minute for Aaron Kovar, who moved out right. Morris didn’t get too many opportunities from the middle of the pitch but did earn his squad one last corner kick in the 75th minute before his debut came to a close.

It wasn’t all positive for Morris on the night, though. He disappeared from the match for large stretches at a time, but it was mostly due to the usual rust that causes MLS teams to dredge through these stages of the CCL. Liga MX clubs are already in mid-season form while MLS clubs just recently started their preseason. Considering the difference in form, the Sounders actually performed fairly well. Lack of sharpness and cohesion was to be expected from Seattle in this one, so their inability to consistently get Morris the ball is not yet a concern.

Morris also badly duffed a shot in the 64th minute, flubbing what could have been a quality strike on frame. But hey, even the best players in the world mishit a ball from time to time.

Overall, Jordan Morris’ debut in the Xbox kit definitely provided glimpses of his exceptional ability and work rate. The advanced skills and grit he possesses for a forward his age should help lessen the massive blow that was Obafemi Martins’ departure from Seattle. If Morris’ performance on Tuesday was any indication of what the future holds for him in the Emerald City, then Sounders supporters should have plenty of reasons for optimism.

The next chance to see Morris in a meaningful match is when the Sounders and América square off again next Wednesday in Mexico City for the second leg of the CCL quarterfinal.

Main Photo: Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images