Both the new signing and rookie forward were standout performers in Seattle's 3-1 win at Orlando City last Sunday.
Clint Dempsey garnered most of the headlines following Seattle’s rousing 3-1 victory at Orlando City last Sunday.
The veteran Sounders forward scored as many goals in his 59 minutes of action than he’d managed this entire MLS season prior to last weekend, netting his first league hat trick since April of 2014. A rejuvenated Dempsey would play a major part in any kind of theoretical Seattle playoff push over its remaining 12 games.
But potentially even more promising for the club’s long-term future is the chemistry between playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro and rookie forward Jordan Morris.
Despite having played in just two matches since Lodeiro was signed from Boca Juniors late last month, that pairing is already showing signs of a mutually beneficial relationship between two players with complementary strengths.
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“He’s always looking for that ball over the top, and that’s my game, to make those runs,” Morris said Tuesday. “Right from the get-go, the first day, he came up to me and said, ‘I’m going to look for those runs from you over the top.’ It’s awesome.”
Morris was rampant against Orlando City, putting together as consistently dangerous a 90 minutes as he has as a professional.
If proponents of his Rookie of the Year candidacy have pointed out reasonable raw production — his seven goals are most among first-year players — while discounting occasionally inconsistent performances, Sunday night was something of the opposite. Morris didn’t net a goal himself, but he did notch two assists and, as Dempsey put it afterward, “he could have had five.”
Morris didn’t get any credit for Seattle’s opening, game-tying goal, but it was his timely run that pulled purple-shirted defenders out of place and opened the passing lane between Tyrone Mears and Dempsey.
“Jordan’s contributions to the attack were phenomenal,” interim coach Brian Schmetzer said. “But his commitment to defend was just as high. I could show you clips of when he closed guys down, when he chased guys back. … He was gassed at the end of that game because of all of his work.”
Morris constantly took advantage of Orlando’s high back line, playing off the shoulders of opposing defenders and sprinting into the gaping spaces left open beyond.
Cristian Roldan played Morris over the top to set up the second goal, Morris controlling the ball with his chest before laying it off to his grizzled strike partner for a simple finish.
Lodeiro, too, was everywhere: Dishing off to Andreas Ivanschitz, who fired wide of the left post; playing in Morris with a seeing-eye through ball down the left sideline just before halftime.
“That’s what we brought him here for,” Schmetzer said. “If we can push Clint a little higher toward goal, and get Lodeiro to do what he does, then all of a sudden, we’re pretty good.”
The third goal was most emblematic of the sparks flying between Lodeiro and Morris on Sunday night in Orlando.
Just minutes after halftime, Morris chested a long ball backward toward the new signing’s feet, and Lodeiro took off at a gallop with Dempsey to his left and Morris to his right.
At first glance, Dempsey is the more obvious target. But both Lodeiro and Morris spotted the gap between a triangle of Orlando defenders, and both pass and run were synced to beat the offside trap. They could hardly have timed it any better, down to the millisecond.
Whether Lodeiro can keep up his torrid start to life in MLS remains to be seen. This is a notoriously difficult league to adjust to midseason, with its physical style of play and coast-to-coast road trips.
“That was his first East Coast trip,” Schmetzer said Tuesday. “(Lodeiro) was not on the field today. He was in the ice baths, riding the bike, doing a re-gen. I will check in with him this week. The medical staff is checking in with him and we will see on how he comes out of that. It’s definitely a change from having to travel from Boca to Rosario.”
The Sounders still have a long way to go before playoffs can begin to be uttered without a smirk. But as the club seeks long-term building blocks going forward, an immediate connection between the big-name signing who looks for runners and a high-profile rookie who likes to run is a promising place to start.