So far, Jordan Morris has made all the right moves

By Ridge Mahoney

In some ways, it’s a great time to be a young attacker in the U.S. national team pool. In other ways, it’s not.

Bobby Wood, 22, is living the dream. In the span of a week he’s leaped from curiosity to hero. No one has scored the winning goal in back-to-back games against the Netherlands and Germany except for him.

And no one, including him, knows what happens next regarding his club status with 1860 Munich, which loaned him to Erzgebirge Aue, which has been relegated to the third tier of German soccer. He couldn’t break through at 1860 Munich and despite his two glorious goals for the USA they may not significantly upgrade his desirability.

Julian Green, 20, is also in limbo as regards to his club. Five games on loan from Bayern Munich to Hamburg, which narrowly escaped relegation to Bundesliga 2, is a serious dropoff from scoring a goal in the World Cup. Hamburg went through four coaches during its disastrous season, and though Green is returning to Bayern, another move is no guarantee he will get regular playing time. He is also not on the Gold Cup provisional roster.

The cynics can point to Wood as possibly another Green, at least in the short term. Their goals will live on in the memory of U.S. fans but coaches and executives of foreign teams use different criteria.

In the best shape by far is Jordan Morris, 20, who isn’t bound to any club other than the Sounders -- if he wants to sign with MLS. (He can sign him as a Homegrown player as a product of their academy program.) All indications are that Morris will return to Stanford for his junior year and while that prompts incredulity and consternation from certain fans and journalists, he’s the son of a doctor, attending one of the world’s great academic institutions, and steadily rising up the ranks as a player. He's yet to put a foot wrong. 

Tossed into the friendly against defending World Cup champion Germany on Wednesday, Morris whipped a shot narrowly wide less than a minute after entering the field, then showed his acumen with a clever dummy run that opened space for Wood to smack the winner.

Morris may be too good for college, as many attest, yet he may also be too smart to rush into any decision. His tools are evident; clean with both feet, sharp in the final third, strong enough to fend off tacklers and fast enough to peel away from most of them. So why would he stay at Stanford, especially since he is on the 35-man Gold Cup roster and has a decent shot of seeing action?

So far the mantra of U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann of seeking the highest level possible to maximize the challenges his players face hasn’t swayed Morris in any direction. If Morris believes MLS may be a good option, he can point to the examples of Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley, whose moves back to MLS have not yet impaired their effectiveness for the national team.

If they and the U.S. team flounder at the Gold Cup against regional opposition, that might cause Morris and other emerging young players to recalibrate their viewpoints. Yet the dozens of cases of promising young Americans who went overseas and couldn’t establish themselves as first-teamers, regardless of circumstance, are clear warning signs that the foreign choice isn’t the best choice for everyone.

If there are offers from foreign teams and MLS clubs, Morris can use the case of Miguel Ibarra as a reference point. Supposedly, MLS teams and/or the league office balked at the reported $1 million transfer fee demanded by Minnesota United. Ibarra is instead bound for Mexico, to play for Leon, and though the transfer price isn’t known, the league has to be concerned that if it lets Morris slip away, either by process or penuriousness, its image will suffer significantly.

Ibarra’s move was probably a factor in Klinsmann’s decision to exclude him from the Gold Cup roster. Just the fact Klinsmann plucked him from the ranks of the NASL is encouragement to players that the head coach, and by extension U.S. Soccer, will take the right player regardless of the source.

Morris is the poster-boy for an environment of opportunity crafted by Klinsmann, who is tasked with breaking the mold of player identification and development as much as generating results. The coach can’t control how players are managed by their clubs, but said players can draw his eye through their performance, and there is no greater example than what Morris did barely more than a year ago.

The goal he scored in a scrimmage during the USA’s pre-World Cup training camp at Stanford pales in significance to the strikes of Wood and Green and the one Morris netted two months ago against Mexico. Morris can rightly cite the past 13 months as evidence he’s done the right things and made smart decisions, and if he’s not in a rush to charge into the pro life, why should we be?

1 comment about "So far, Jordan Morris has made all the right moves".
  1. Rick Estupinan, June 12, 2015 at 3:42 p.m.

    This kID has a great potential.I hope they are very careful no to spoil him.He has speed , good vision of the net,a powerful shot.He is not afraid who is in front of him,and most of all he is intelligent and has the ability to execute a good attacking move.

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