Klinsmann stance on Jordan Morris makes sense

By Ridge Mahoney

He didn’t say it in so many words, but recent comments by U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann regarding rookie forward Jordan Morris can be translated thusly:

Back off.

A middling start to his pro career in Seattle has made Morris, who just a few months ago helped Stanford win the NCAA Division I soccer championship, a victim of his own success. But that can happen when you score against Mexico in first U.S. start, as Morris did a year ago: every road from the summit leads downhill, in the eyes of some observers, if you don’t pick right up where you left off.

His replacement in that game, Revs striker Juan Agudelo, scored his first U.S. goal in more than four years to round out a 2-0 victory that reminds us a friendly -- even one against an archrival -- isn’t really all that big a deal.

But the Morris story certainly is a big deal and it took an important turn in January when as expected he rebuffed interest from foreign teams to sign with Seattle as Homegrown player. A brief trial with Werder Bremen, arranged by U.S. U-23 head coach and former Bremen player Andi Herzog, triggered a fair amount of angst and refueled the heated debate of MLS vs. Foreign League TBA. A ridiculous amount of hype greeted news he’d assisted on a goal for Bremen in a training game during its winter camp in Turkey.

In the end, his choice confirmed the significance of several years in the Sounders development program and the fact his father is the team doctor.

Lost in the glow of a ballyhooed start to his national team career and the goal against Mexico is the stark fact that not until he lined up for the Sounders had he played in a top-level competitive match. Only now is he going up against professionals of all ages and sizes.

“Now for Jordan it's a game-by-game learning curve to really understand what the professional game demands,” said Klinsmann in a Facebook Q&A Tuesday. “It's a lot more physical, it's a lot faster compared to what he was used to coming from the college system.”

He wasn’t named to the roster for the 2015 Gold Cup as he needed surgery for a stress fracture in his leg. In October, he played for the U.S. U-23s in the Olympic qualifying tournament rather than the Concacaf Cup showdown against Mexico the Americans lost, 3-2. Last month he played both U-23 playoff games against Colombia and not the World Cup qualifiers with Guatemala.

Elimination from the Olympic Games presents Klinsmann with the problem of which U-23 players to move into the senior setup faster than others. Defenders John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin have already established themselves in the senior pool; in the short term, does Morris or other young players such as Matt Miazga get fast-tracked for the Copa America Centenario, which is just two months away?

“I think it’s really important, for example in a case like Jordan Morris, that we are patient,” said Klinsmann. “That we understand that there is a player jumping from the college system into the pro system and obviously tremendously talented, that’s why he is with the national team program, but to give him time.”

In many ways, he’s still a college player coming to grips with the pro game and in Seattle, stung by the departure of striker Obafemi Martins to the Chinese league, there’s a big hole to fill. Martins rang up 40 goals and 23 assists in 72 games and by timing and circumstance, Morris is in the spotlight of fan and media scrutiny.

Teammates are more realistic. He’s very young and very raw.

“You can’t ask for anything more from a young guy who’s got a lot of pressure on his shoulders, coming in and putting his head down and work, and that’s what you get from Jordan,” said Sounders captain Brad Evans in an ESPN interview. “You see it on the national team, you saw it in college. Now the progression is: if he gets only one chance in a game, can he finish that chance? That can be the difference in the start to our season. He gets one chance against Kansas City to put it away and we go up 1-0, it changes the game. So far, very happy with his quality, very happy with his mindset. He’ll only continue to get better and better.”

In four games (three starts), Morris has played 263 minutes and taken three shots. credits him with a passing percentage of 80.6 and 15.5 passes per game. His journey in some ways seemed to crescendo a year ago when in fact it is just getting started.

"Jordan is a personality that learns very quickly, so obviously [we] will watch him now and see how he gets his feet wet in MLS and how he's coming through,” said Klinsmann. “We are very confident his learning curve will [progress] really fast and we definitely see him continuing to be a part of the senior national team.”

7 comments about "Klinsmann stance on Jordan Morris makes sense".
  1. Ginger Peeler, April 7, 2016 at 3:45 p.m.

    Got to say I'm 100% in agreement with JK here. I often find myself frustrated by those fans who complain about our teams (at all ages) expecting them to all be phenomenal players (because we're the USA, so should be able to produce the best players), but they think these same teams stink (because we're the USA and are incapable of producing any world class players). Two faces of the same coin. The Columbian game was a major eye-opener for Jordan. Hopefully, he can work into regular time on the field with the Sounders. Yedlin surprised a whole lot of people with the way he picked up the game as quickly as he did. I think Jordan has the soccer smarts, and support of the team, to do the same. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

  2. Mark Torguson, April 7, 2016 at 4:02 p.m.

    Why does he qualify has a "Seattle Sounders Home Grown Player" he played one year with Seattle, why does Eastside not receive this designation? I feel "homegrown" should be at least 5 years with a club to "develop" not just recruit all the best players and claim them as your own?

  3. John Soares, April 7, 2016 at 8:27 p.m.

    WOW!!! Was that really JK??? If so, can it be the man is finally learning some diplomacy/common sense/don't trash the players in public/It's not always "just" about me. I hope so. It's never too late....or is it?

  4. Bakela Nare, April 7, 2016 at 10:51 p.m.

    It is too late for Jordan Morris to develop the technical ability and tactical awareness to function at he international level. Watching him play for U23 it became abundantly clear that this is a player who was deceived into believing that he has what it takes to play at a higher level. The lost time he spent playing in college is time he will never get back. I find him to be a blunt instrument that can not function in an environment that requires sharp instruments.

  5. Ric Fonseca replied, April 9, 2016 at 2:55 p.m.

    Bakela, in order to sharpen a "blunt instrument" it is absolutely necessary to sharpen it, akin to a blacksmith's ability to produce a Samurai sword. I do agree, however, that we've been so used to having players of his ability/caliber coming out of college, with some exceptions of course such as Omar Gonzalez, and we put them on a pedestal, and in danger of getting lambasted by some, the same happened to two non-college players, LD and Freddy Adu, who were immediately placed on a very tall pedestal. The difference here is that while Freddy was screwed over by representatives, attorneys, and fast-talkers, he did not flourish in Europe, but floundered. On the other hand, LD did flourish in a local rec and competitive and professional US environment, yet he was unable to flousirh in Germany. Morris is a so-called diamond in the rough, however, I sincerely hope he is not jaded by everyone putting him on that tall pedestal, and I also sincerely and honestly feel that coach Sigi will be the one to help him sharpen his skills, and with his (Sigi's) connection with his amigo JK, it will come to pass.

  6. BJ Genovese, April 9, 2016 at 5:32 p.m.

    “You can’t ask for anything more from a young guy who’s got a lot of pressure on his shoulders, coming in and putting his head down and work, and that’s what you get from Jordan,” Do us a all favor Brad, ask him to use his left foot. The fact that JK and everyone else was so duped by a kid that can only play a singular style of soccer with one foot is just plain scary and shows just how far we have come. Good job USSDA'S (killers of the number 10).

  7. BJ Genovese replied, April 9, 2016 at 5:34 p.m.

    Let the USSDA's claim him along with his crap technical ability.

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