TORONTO — Jordan Morris has dreamt about this since he was a little boy.
When the Seattle Sounders take on Toronto FC in the 2016 MLS Cup at BMO Field on Saturday (5 p.m. PT; FOX, TSN, UniMas, KIRO Radio 97.3 FM, El Rey 1360AM), Morris will suit up and play for a title for his hometown team in just his first professional season.
“As a kid growing up, if I think in that mindset, it’s surreal,” Morris told reporters at a press conference here on Thursday. “That I’m able to represent this city and play for this big club and be in the position that we’re in now, it’s a pretty surreal feeling.”
Morris is less than a full year removed from winning the NCAA Men’s College Cup with Stanford and now enters another championship game with a bigger stage and even brighter lights. If he and the Sounders win the MLS Cup on Saturday, he’ll become the first player in league history to win the NCAA title, the Hermann Trophy as the best college player, the MLS Rookie of the Year and the MLS Cup.
No other player has done it over his entire career. Morris can do it in less than a year.
Morris said he’s focused on approaching the MLS Cup Final no differently than any other game and to not let it get to his head, something he is much more equipped to do now than he was at the start of the year, when he went scoreless of the first five matches with the Sounders.
“A lot of people were quick to write me off,” said Morris. “But I got the monkey off my back after the first goal…I had a change in attitude and focused on what I can do to help the team win.”
Morris, somewhat coincidentally, owes a lot of his ability to overcome pressure situations from Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley, his United States teammates, but club counterparts with Toronto FC on Saturday.
Bradley unintentionally intimidated Morris during his first USMNT camp, but the United States’ veteran captain opened up to Morris and several other younger players and made them feel more at home. Bradley would pull Morris off to the side during trainings or before matches and give him advice: What to do with the ball, where to make his runs, how to feel more comfortable and confident in big games.
“What I love about [Bradley] is that he’s a mentor, he’s a leader, he’s someone you can go to whenever you need help with anything …” Morris said. :He’s been so helpful in my development, and I’m really appreciative for everything he’s done.”
And Bradley, as he had earlier in the week, had more compliments for Morris 48 hours before the big game.
“Things I like about Jordan are things [the media doesn’t] even realize,” Bradley said on Thursday. “He came into the league under a lot of pressure, and the pressure was bigger than it needed to be for a young player coming out of college.
“He’s gotten better and better as the year went on, and that doesn’t happen often with young guys.”
Bradley’s biggest defensive assignment on Saturday just so happens to be another veteran who has helped grow Morris’ game. Sounders midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro has had one of the more dominant league performances since joining MLS in late July, and he’s had an influence on how Morris plays as well.
“The first thing Lodeiro said to me is, ‘When I get the ball, you just run,’” Morris said. “I think of him like a quarterback.”
Lodeiro and Morris have had a special connection in the Sounders’ attack this season — they've linked up on four goals including a brilliant assist from Morris to Lodeiro against FC Dallas — and Morris will need to use his experiences from both Lodeiro and Bradley on Saturday.
If he does, the Sounders could very well bring their first MLS Cup back to Seattle, capping a historic year for one of the city’s favorite sons.