TUKWILA — Lumen Field looked a lot to different to Jordan Morris last week.
After months of ignoring the facility during his commute to Tukwila for Sounders FC training at Starfire Sports, he allowed himself to peek at the structure and daydream. Morris, the prized winger from Mercer Island, is fully recovered from a second ACL injury suffered in February and expected to be part of the game-day roster for Seattle’s Monday match against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The club’s home finale at Lumen Field now takes on an intoxicating anticipation for Morris and Sounders fans alike.
“Every day this week, I was telling my wife I woke up kind of like when you’re a kid on your birthday or Christmas morning with that excited feeling in my stomach,” said Morris, who turned 27 last week. “And when I was driving by the stadium on the way to training, I mean, that’s what you think about when you’re going through a recovery like this — that first game back. That moment that you’re stepping back on the field. The fact that it’s so close now is pretty surreal because it’s been a long year.”
Morris was making an innocuous move when he heard his left knee pop while playing for EFL Championship side Swansea City AFC in February. It was his fifth appearance in a lucrative six-month loan that could’ve netted the Sounders upward of $10 million if Morris performed well enough to have his rights sold.
Named to MLS’s 2020 Best XI team, helping Swansea get promoted to the Premier League and play in some of the famed stadiums in England was a goal for Morris. He had to reset those aspirations when he underwent surgery in March.
Morris knew rehab would be challenging. He tore his right ACL in 2018 and missed the entire MLS season and potential call-ups for the U.S. men’s national team. The U.S. didn’t qualify for the World Cup that year.
There was some doubt Morris would be able to play this MLS season. He’s again missed opportunities to play for the USMNT, which has another round of 2022 World Cup qualifying matches Nov. 12 and 16.
Coincidentally, FIFA’s delegation will attend the Sounders match Monday as part of its evaluation process in picking host cities for the 2026 World Cup.
“This recovery was a little bit different,” Morris said after training Friday at Starfire. “I was having kind of this different pain that I was feeling on the outside of my knee. I really turned a corner about two months ago with that.
“I feel like once that went away, that was kind of the last thing that I felt like was holding me back a little bit from getting to where I wanted to be. Once that went away about two months ago, I really knew (playing this MLS season) was going to be in sight. For these last two months, it’s been a lot of extra work in the gym getting my quad strong again and making sure everything’s right.”
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said Morris doesn’t have any restrictions. But Morris needs to play to see where he truly is fitness-wise.
Morris returned to full training in mid-October. He said those sessions have helped build confidence in the strength he rebuilt in his knee and not worry about playing physical MLS matches.
“(Jordan’s) been doing a lot of those things already on the field,” Schmetzer said. “He’s been tackled on the field. He’s been sprinting. He’s been doing a lot of stuff. He might have an edge in the fitness because he has been working so hard in his recovery more so than when you come back from a hamstring injury where you have to kind of build that up. He’s been building that up for two months. He’ll be ready.”
Where Morris fits in the Sounders rotation is the real question. Schmetzer changed tactics for the first time since he took over the position in 2016 because Morris suffered the knee injury. The left winger was second in club scoring last season with 11 goals and a career-best nine assists, including postseason play.
Seattle played with two forwards up top and three center backs for the bulk of this season. The Sounders (17-8-7) set an MLS record with a 13-game unbeaten streak to open the year and not conceding a goal through the run of play for 949 minutes.
“Wherever I’m put on the field, my game play is going to be the same,” Morris said. “Try to get behind teams, beat people one-on-one and try to stretch the opponent when I come on.”
The Rave Green are currently winless in their past four matches. L.A. (13-12-7) needs a win Monday to keep their playoff hopes alive. Seattle needs to win for it to possibly regain the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. The top team gets a first-round bye and guaranteed home field advantage through the conference title match.
Brazilian winger Leo Chu, who was signed in August, is probably the only Sounders player who can match the speed of Morris. The latter is goal-dangerous in any formation and could be an advantage toward the end of matches when opponents could be worn down and not have depth like Seattle.
“We need to take advantage of this,” Sounders keeper Stefan Frei said. “Honestly, this is probably the deepest squad that I’ve been on with really good quality. On one position, like left wingback, we can put three, four guys that are all quite dangerous.”
But the Sounders aren’t completely healthy. Chu (ankle), forward Will Bruin (knee) and striker Raul Ruidiaz (hamstring) are dealing with nagging injuries. The Galaxy could be without Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez due to a calf injury. He leads the visitors with 14 goals.
Morris believes his return coupled with midfielder Nico Lodeiro and Ruidiaz — who were also named to the league’s 2020 Best XI team — are the boost the Sounders need. The aim remains to finish the long year with the club’s fifth MLS Cup appearance.
“Sometimes you go through times like this where you’re having difficult results,” Morris said. “The team has played in a lot of games in a short amount of time, so it’s really, really difficult. But we’re built for moments like this to come back from tough times, and we know how good we are going into the playoffs. We’re all really, really confident.”