U.S. National Team vs. Czech Republic
Wednesday, September 3; 11:15 am PT; Prague, Czech Republic
TV: NBC Sports Network; UniMas
The U.S. National Team will make its return to the field on Wednesday for the first time since finishing in the Round of 16 at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil with an extra time defeat to Belgium. The friendly against the Czech Republic marks the start of the 2018 World Cup cycle and U.S. Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann is using the first test as a chance to gauge some of the young talent that will be in bloom for the 2018 tournament in Russia.
Among the potential debutants is Sounders FC Academy product Jordan Morris. The Stanford University sophomore is the first active college player to get called in to the U.S. since Chris Albright in 1999, and aims to become the first to make an appearance since Ante Razov in 1995. It has been a dramatic rise for Morris, 19, after the Mercer Island native burst onto the scene last year, providing another point of pride for the Sounders FC Academy that produced DeAndre Yedlin.
“I think Jordan’s a good player. I think the number one thing in our Academy is giving players an opportunity to play. The Academy did a good job in terms of allowing him to express himself and play,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “I think it’s a tribute to our Academy and to the players of Washington state that continue to develop.”
Morris first got a look at the international level last year when he was called in to the U.S. U-20 National Team for the Toulon Tournament in France under the recommendation of Schmid. While he didn’t then move on to the U-20 World Cup, where Yedlin was able to shine, the coaches at U.S. Soccer have kept their eyes on his progress.
What they have seen is a breakout season at Stanford, where Morris finished with six goals and seven assists to earn All-Pac-12 First Team honors as a freshman. He has also earned call-ups to U-21 and U-23 camps this year, scoring a goal with the U-23s against the Bahamas.
The left-footed forward has displayed an ability to score in different ways using size, speed and strength as well as technical ability to gain offensive advantages.
“He’s a slasher. He’s a player that can play wide, he can play up top, he can play as one of the two strikers in a two-man formation. He can do a lot of things,” Schmid said. “He works really, really hard. He’s comfortable on both sides of the field. He keeps pressure on defenses because he’s willing to make those runs in behind. He’s pretty good with the ball. He’s pretty quick with the ball. He’ll go at you. He’s not a passive player on the field. He’s a player that makes you make decisions as a defender.”
While there is a bevy of young talent in camp with the U.S. for Wednesday’s friendly, there are also some veteran players who ply their trade in Europe that will provide some leadership to the group. That will also help Morris adapt to the senior level, where he will be facing players from Czech Republic who have years of professional experience.
Training with players like Jozy Altidore, Mix Diskerud, Fabian Johnson, Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando will allow Morris to integrate himself at a new level of competition.
“There’s always one or two of the older guys that will take care of the younger guys - will sit with them and help explain to them what’s happening and how to go about their business,” Schmid said. “He’ll be ok.”