Jordan Morris embracing leadership role with U.S. as he looks to build on productive 2017

It wasn’t long ago that Jordan Morris showed up wide-eyed and shy at his first United States national team camp, surrounded by the likes of Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and other generational names that had become symbolic with the U.S. crest. But at the 2018 January camp, things are nearly unrecognizable.

Of the 30 players that U.S. national team caretaker Dave Sarachan called to Los Angeles ahead of a Jan. 28 friendly against Bosnia and Herzogovina, Morris, just 23 years old, is one of the veterans. Only Gyasi Zardes and Juan Agudelo have more caps than Morris’ 24, and neither one came close to the significant impact that Morris had in 2017.

Morris recorded four goals, including the game-winner in the Gold Cup Final against Jamaica, and was the most efficient scorer of anyone all year. More than Dempsey. More than Altidore. More than Christian Pulisic. No one had a better Goals/90 minutes clip than Morris’ 0.77.

Due to that success and his status as U.S. mainstay, his role this time around in L.A. has reversed. He is now the one to whom his young and inexperienced international teammates are turning.

“It was so beneficial for me when I was coming in just having some older guys in camp and have those people to talk to and learn from,” Morris said. “I’m hopefully trying to be that at this camp for some of those guys. If they have any questions, just be there for them and try to reach out and talk to some of the newer guys.

“I know it’s intimidating sometimes,” he continued. “I’m just trying to be there for people who have questions and try to be more of a vocal guy on the field. That’s not necessary what I do all the time, but at a camp like this, I’m trying to work on it a little bit.”

This camp personnel signifies a rather overt shift toward younger talent and cultivating a new crop of players with the goal of returning to the World Cup in Qatar in 2022 after failing to qualify for Russia this summer. Morris will be 27 then, a prime age for a forward with immense talent and speed, and he’s hoping to continue to prove himself on the world’s biggest stage.

“I have a ton to work on and get better and try to establish myself a little bit more with this team,” Morris said. “If there’s a new coach who comes in, I’m just trying to put myself into contention to be on the field. Hopefully I can build off that confidence from last year.”

Jordan Morris embracing leadership role with U.S. as he looks to build on productive 2017 -

If 2017 was a stepping stone for Morris, then 2018, World Cup or not, is an opportunity to establish himself as a household name. He’s entering his third professional season and is still one of the brightest prospects on the domestic club level.

Things won’t always go Morris’ way, he admits that, but he’s becoming more adept at rolling with the punches and refusing to get too high or too low. Seasons and careers arc, but 2018 has all the makings of what could be his best year yet.

“I know there’s going to be ups and downs,” Morris said. “It’s continuing to learn that and hopefully there’s a lot more ups than downs, but things happen. You just have to keep working hard every day to get better and things will fall in place.”

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