MLS Playoffs: Jordan Morris delivers when it matters

Jordan Morris missed the recent U.S. World Cup qualifiers after straining his hamstring in the Western Conference semifinals. He was suffering from a virus that kept him in bed for the 48 hours before the second leg of Seattle's Western Conference final against Colorado. All he did was score the winning goal in the Sounders' 1-0 win that sent them to MLS Cup for the first time. A bigger achievement might have been how the rookie played all 90 minutes.

On the winning goal in the 56th minute, Morris took a cleat to his knee from onrushing Rapids keeper Zac MacMath and needed treatment from his father, Dr. Michael Morris, Seattle's chief medical director and team surgeon.

"He just came out and was checking that all the ligaments were in there, but he was pushing where [MacMath] cleated me," Jordan Morris said. "I never yell at my dad, but I was kind of yelling at him there."

Several times in the second half, Morris went down but he continued to play on. The Sounders needed him. They were already without injured Brad Evans and Erik Friberg -- not to mention Clint Dempsey, ruled out for the season in late September with a heart condition.

Andreas Ivanschitz, starting his first game of the playoffs, played 51 minutes before he went off. Captain Osvaldo Alonso injured his knee and left the game in the 74th minute. The final substitution was Nelson Valdez in the 88th minute.

Morris was arguably MLS's biggest rookie signing since Freddy Adu in 2004, the first rookie who had already played for the U.S. national team. After rejecting an offer from Germany's Werder Bremen -- now in the Bundesliga's relegation zone -- to sign with his hometown Sounders after his junior year at Stanford, Morris was under enormous pressure to produce for Seattle, which struggled to score after losing star Obafemi Martins in March.

Morris set an MLS record for the most goals by an American rookie (12) and won the MLS Rookie of the Year award as the Sounders recovered from a horrible start to make the playoffs. But he went into a scoring slump late in the season, going nine games without a goal before scoring the tying goal in the first leg of the conference final against Rapids.

Like on that goal when he pounced on a rebound of Cristian Roldan's shot off the post, Morris was not deterred by his illness or the altitude at Dick's Sporting Goods Park and used a burst of speed to meet Valdez's through ball and beat MacMath -- just before their collision.

"I think I'm just playing with more confidence, and confidence is going to help you play whether it's at the beginning of the season or the end of the season," Morris said. "You try not to think about those things, but your play on the field is going to be about your confidence, and I just feel confident that the guys have been so supportive and helped me through tough times, and so I'm just playing with more confidence."

Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer admitted Morris looked under the weather in the first half but said his young forward came through when it mattered.

“The kid is not only strong physically," said Schmetzer, "but dealing with the [diabetes] that he has, he’s also strong mentally. I think that’s what you saw today. He wasn’t feeling his best. … But in the one moment that really counted, he was mentally strong enough, he pushed himself physically to score the goal that we needed to put us through.”

1 comment about "MLS Playoffs: Jordan Morris delivers when it matters".
  1. StrikerBob Norman, November 30, 2016 at 1:37 p.m.

    Jordan is not just a talented soccer player with grit, he is a real gentleman and an example to our youth. As a Sounder til I die, it will be a sad day when he leaves for Europe.

    Allez les Bleus! The Canadian version of course.

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