SEATTLE - A few weeks ago, the Seattle Sounders' courtship of Jordan Morris hit unexpected difficulties when the promising young striker went on trial at German club Werder Bremen.
The one-time Sounders FC Academy star had already pushed back his pro decision following his two-goal performance in a successful national title game for Stanford in December, and now he’d be pushing it back even further.
For the Sounders staff that had been trying to pull Morris away from college to sign a pro deal for three years, it was a difficult pill. The roller coaster screeched to a new speed when Werder Bremen announced they’d offered Morris a contract.
Ultimately, only one thing mattered in the end.
“It was a great experience, but I always knew that I wanted to come home,” Morris said Thursday, when the Sounders made him the seventh and most celebrated Homegrown Player signing in franchise history. “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 – in front of the 45,000 fans at CenturyLink.”
Morris’s brief dalliance with a German club at the behest of two national team coaches raised the obvious question of whether the U.S. U-23 boss Herzog and U.S. national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann perhaps wanted Morris to try a different challenge abroad and, as Klinsmann has asked of his USMNT players in the past, step out of his comfort zone in order to mature as a player.
As far as Morris is concerned, however, Klinsmann certainly wasn’t overstepping his bounds as the USMNT head coach.
“Jurgen has been great,” Morris said. “He’s obviously given me some amazing opportunities that I never dreamed about happening, especially at this age. We have very open and honest talks as well, and it’s easy to talk with him. He’s been a great mentor for me as well, and I need to thank him for everything he’s done for me. I definitely wouldn’t be in the position I’m in today without him.”
Sounders Owner Adrian Hanauer spoke at length about the options on the table for Morris – “Jordan honestly didn’t need Jurgen or Andi to set [the Werder Bremen trial] up, and he could have gone to bigger clubs and other countries” – and he also weighed into the debate about who’s best to develop young American players.
“My personal opinion is that Jurgen doesn't know any better than any of us what is best for the development of a player,” Hanauer said. “He may know, in terms of rational data, what a better league is, but that doesn’t guarantee development.
“I’m not sure there’s a lot of animosity, but could there be better communication between U.S. Soccer and Major League Soccer? Probably.”
- INFOGRAPHIC: Get to know Jordan Morris
Klinsmann too, played nice in the hours leading up to the signing on Thursday. Despite leveling past criticisms at the level of play in MLS and singling out players like Sounders forward Clint Dempsey for returning to the States instead of continuing in Europe, Klinsmann had no public ire this time around.
"I'm thrilled that Jordan decided to go pro," Klinsmann told ESPN FC. "This is the really important decision. And I'm thrilled with the Sounders, that he goes into an environment that he knows, that he feels comfortable with, and that he feels now that, 'At this specific point in time, this is the best move for me.'"
As for the Sounders, they reiterated their desire on Thursday to be one of the best clubs in the world, and the capture of the most coveted Homegrown signing in league history certainly backed up the assertion.
“Too many people in this country don’t believe in our league,” Sounders GM and President of Socer Garth Lagerwey said Thursday. “We don’t believe in ourselves. And until we respect ourselves and until we respect our league, we’re not going to achieve what is possible for us for the league. Americans aren’t really good at being second best at anything. I don’t accept, and we shouldn’t accept, that we’re going to be second best at this forever.
“Maybe there are some advantages in Europe right now, but again, if we sign players as talented as Jordan, and Jordan shows us the hard work and mentality he’s shown at every other level and he earns it, we’re going to get better and better and better.”