TUKWILA, Wash. — Toronto FC’s Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley are not just Jordan Morris’ opposition in the 2016 MLS Cup Final on Saturday, Dec. 10 (5 p.m. PT; FOX, TSN, UniMas, KIRO Radio 97.3 FM, El Rey 1360AM).
They’re also his fans.
Altidore and Bradley, who have 225 combined United States caps, expressed their admiration last week of the Seattle Sounders forward and their international teammate, complimenting everything from his skill set to his work rate to his character.
Morris, who made his U.S. debut in 2014 while still at Stanford and has 12 career caps, offered his gratitude toward Altidore and Bradley on Monday.
“Those are two of the guys that right from when I went into the national team, they took me under their wing,” said Morris. “They’ve been so supportive of me throughout the whole process. I can’t say enough about those guys. Obviously both are amazing players, but off the field they’ve been so great with me.
“Going into a new situation like that with the national team, I was pretty nervous, but having those guys there and knowing that they have my back and think that I deserve to be there is awesome,” Morris continued. “Can’t say thank you enough to those guys.”
What Morris did in the second leg of the Western Conference Championship against the Colorado Rapids only kept the plaudits coming.
The 2016 AT&T MLS Rookie of the Year toughed out a draining shift on Nov. 29 in Commerce City. He had been dealing with flu-like symptoms for 48 hours before the match and logged a full 90 minutes in altitude. He scored the game-winning goal early in the second half, but suffered a big gash directly below his right knee after taking a cleat from Rapids goalkeeper Zac MacMath on the shot.
Morris is practicing with a bandage wrapped around the cut, but he is showing no visible signs of ailment. He insists he’s “totally fine now” and is excited and will be ready to go in Toronto.
Morris admits that pushing a lot of the outside noise — criticism as well as praise like that from Altidore and Bradley — has not always been easy in his first professional year, but he’s gotten better at tuning it out as the season has progressed.
“You say you’re going to stop doing it, but then you get curious and you read some [articles],” said Morris. “But I’ve definitely gotten to a point where I try and push all that to the outside. It’s not going to help my game in any way. I just focus on what I can do on the field to help my team.”
On Saturday at BMO Field on the biggest stage of his budding career, that will consist of putting the ball in the back of the net and trying to bring the first MLS Cup back to Seattle — even if it means stealing it on Altidore and Bradley’s home pitch.
“Obviously when we step on the field we’ll be competitors,” said Morris, “but after the game it’s back to being friends.”