Less than 24 hours after a resounding 3-1 win over LAFC to earn the Seattle Sounders their third Western Conference title in four seasons, Jordan Morris had several teammates over to watch the Eastern Conference Championship between Atlanta United and Toronto FC.
Substitute Nick DeLeon’s golazo put TFC ahead 2-1 in the 78th minute, and the Reds held on to advance to their third trip to MLS Cup in four years as well. More significantly for the Sounders, it meant they would host the final for the first time in their MLS franchise history.
“We were all Toronto fans that night,” said Morris on Saturday. “We were all really excited knowing what that meant for this club and this city. We have an opportunity to do something really special now.”
The buzz around Seattle is palpable. Tickets to Sunday’s MLS Cup (12 p.m. PT; ABC, Univision, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM) have already sold out. It’s a day that Mercer Island’s Morris has waited for, and the opportunity to make history in his hometown is not lost on him.
“Growing up here, knowing how passionate the fans are…It’s something I’ve always dreamed of,” said Morris. “A lot of people have dreamed about having an MLS Cup here.”
The Sounders team that marched through the Western Conference in 2016 after one of the most improbable turnarounds in league history was a “blue-collar, blood-and-guts [team],” said General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey. They dug deep to grind out result after result by any means necessary. Morris trademarked his impressive Rookie of the Year campaign in the same fashion in the second leg of the Western Conference Championship at the Colorado Rapids.
Battling flu-like symptoms while playing at altitude, Morris scored a 56th-minute goal in a 1-0 win to send the Sounders through to MLS Cup on 3-1 aggregate. Morris took a brutal knock on the goal after colliding with goalkeeper Zac MacMath, but played the entire 90 minutes.
The following year, Morris only made a 19-minute cameo in 2017 MLS Cup after recovering from a hamstring injury that dampened much of his sophomore season. Two months later, he tore his ACL in the Sounders’ opening Concacaf Champions League match and missed the entire 2018 season.
The Sounders signed forward Raúl Ruidíaz last summer, but Seattle doesn’t get back to MLS Cup this year without Morris, who has embraced a new role as an out-and-out winger in Head Coach Brian Schmetzer’s 4-2-3-1 formation. He rebounded to the tune of 10 goals and seven assists in 26 matches en route to being named MLS Comeback Player of the Year and has reclaimed his role as a bona fide starter for the United States national team.
Just like his goal in Colorado three years ago, he stepped up when the Sounders needed him to by scoring his first professional hat trick, and the first in Sounders postseason history, in a wild 4-3 win over FC Dallas in the first round of this year’s postseason. It also embodies his development as a player and how dynamic he’s become. Two of his three goals came with his left foot and the other with his head, proving how well his game has evolved and matured.
“We’ve got the best Jordan Morris we’ve ever seen right now,” said Lagerwey. “He is authentically Seattle. It’s the ethos that a lot of the community here understands, and he really evokes the values of the city.”
The Sounders and Morris have an opportunity to make history at CenturyLink Field on Sunday. If the Rave Green beat TFC, they’ll lift their second MLS Cup in the last four seasons. For Morris, it’s a chance to deliver another championship to his hometown club.