(Jan 21, 2016) What an incredible soccer journey for Jordan Morris. The young man from Mercer Island, who spent his U11 to U17 years at Eastside FC, signed with the Seattle Sounders today amidst a dizzying swirl of media activity. Having flown in last night from tryouts in Germany with Werder Bremen, Jordan appeared in a much-anticipated press conference hosted by the Sounders at THE NINETY just off Pioneer Square at 11:00 this morning, followed by a frenzy of photo shoots and interviews, including at the iconic Space Needle, before dashing off to the airport this evening to depart for California to meet up with the US Men's National Team to prep for its first two friendlies of the year against Iceland on Jan. 31.
Morris, age 21, just finished his junior season at Stanford, having led his team to a national championship in December. He was named PAC 12 Player of the Year, and just two weeks ago received the MAC Hermann Trophy, college soccer’s Version of the Heisman. Since then, he announced he would go pro, and left school to try out with Werder Bremen, where he received an offer to play for the Bundesliga team.
Never a dull moment.
Morris, however, declined the European offer. In his press conference today, he said, he "knew in his heart" Seattle was where he wanted to be. “It was a great experience, but I always knew that I wanted to come home. My time over there was a good experience and a cool one, but it reaffirmed that I wanted to play in front of my hometown....”
He sounded happy and a little bit awe-struck, but reserved, trying to take it all in. "I grew up following this club," said Morris. "I'm excited to be home..."
Soounders FC Owner Adrian Hanauer spoke emotionally at the press conference of the player's character and integrity, as well as that of the Sounders FC team who helped get the negotions done. He explained how the club tried to sign Morris for some time. Morris played for the Sounders Academy prior to Stanford, having made the move from Eastside FC his senior year of high school, and has been in contact with the club every since. “We certainly wanted to sign Jordan before today," said Hanauer, "but he made a commitment to Stanford University. He made a commitment to his teammates, to his coach. Every six months we would try to test that commitment, but he was steadfast in what he had committed to. It is the kind of person you want in your organization and on your team in the locker room.”
Sounders FC Sporting Director Chris Henderson affirmed the club has been keeping an eye on Morris. He spoke of his first impressions, saying “Initially, Jordan was at Eastside FC and then came over to our academy. He was one of those players that when you watched the game and the ball was loose, he was running full speed. He just wanted to get in front of the ball. It is something you look for in a player.” Morris scored 27 goals in 28 matches for the Sounders Academy and was named the U-17/18 US Soccer Development Academy Player of the Year in 2013.
Coach Sigi Schmid sees much of the same. “He has some qualities that you can’t teach. When you find players who have that – he has an ability to shield the ball off defenders, he has really good balance and he has an ability to finish. When you have that, and the commitment and dedication to go with it, you can go a long way.”
Henderson and Schmid see what Eastside FC Coach Dan Strom saw even earlier Strom told Kiro 7 in a recent TV interview as he showed off the jersey Morris wore when he scored his first goal against Mexico for the US MNT, a gift from his former player. "He's powerful and fast; he knows how to use his body effectively; and he's a good finisher."
Coach Strom should know. Morris proudly wore the navy blue and white of Eastside FC. He played with Strom's EFC B94 Red team from U11 to U17, and helped the team to six of their seven Washington State titles as well as two third-place finishes at the US Youth Soccer National Championships in 2011 and 2012: he was named to the Best XI in 2011 and was the Golden Ball winner in 2012. Morris was also named NSCAA Washington State Player of the Year and NSCAA High School All-American in 2012.
During his whirlwind of interviews, Morris had a half-hour live chat with Seattle Times' readers, and took the time to give a shout-out to his youth coach. "That club (EFC) was very influential in my development. I owe a lot to my teammates and my coach, Dan Strom."
Strom offers nothing but praise for his former player. "It was my honor and pleasure to coach Jordan," he said. "He is the kind of role model that young players in our country and in our club should emulate as they play the game we all love. He is a thoughtful, humble and kind person; indeed, In my years coaching him and then watching his progress from afar, I have never observed Jordan expressing negative emotion toward his teammates or opponents."
"He never accepted his successes as a sign that he had arrived; rather, he continued to work toward his goal of playing professional soccer," says Strom.
Strom also said recently that Jordan "Always has dreamt of playing at CenturyLink."
And so today, the stars were aligned. They all got what they were looking for as Morris signed reportedly the most lucrative Homegrown Player contract in MLS history, beating out the previous recordholder and fellow US MNT player, Gyasi Zardes, with LA Galaxy.
“Today we’re excited and proud to officially welcome Jordan back into the Sounders FC organization,” Seattle Owner Adrian Hanauer said. “Jordan and his family have a long history with our organization, so it’s a pleasure to make him the seventh Homegrown Player in club history. As one of the most promising U.S. Soccer prospects in recent memory, we’re thrilled to have him join the club as we move into our eighth season in Major League Soccer.”
His epic soccer journey shows no sign of slowing. Jordan will be with the US MNT tomorrow through the end of the month, and will make his way back for Sounders preseason and the much anticipated home opener against Sporting Kansas City on March 6th at Century Link. Frm there, he will likely continue to work toward his next dream of playing in the Olympics and World Cup for his country. Across Eastside FC, we are proud of Jordan, one of our own, for working hard to get to this point, and wish him always the very best.
Welcome home, JMo. May you have green fields and blue skies all along your soccer journey -- wherever it may take you.
by Leanne Thomas