Sounders forward Jordan Morris, who missed most of the past 1 1/2 seasons, on Monday was named MLS Player of the Week after scoring twice in a 4-1 win in Saturday's opener. Morris helped ignite an attack the team is leaning heavily on in its bid to secure home-field playoff games under a new format.
Sounders forward Jordan Morris couldn’t have asked for a more triumphant return from injury than he pulled off last weekend.
Not only did Morris score twice Saturday to lead the Sounders to a 4-1 victory over FC Cincinnati, but on Monday, the Mercer Island product was named Major League Soccer Player of the Week. Morris also made the league’s Team of the Week honor list, alongside Sounders teammate Nicolas Lodeiro.
It was quite the comeback for Morris, who missed all of 2018 with a torn ACL in his knee after being sidelined almost all of the final three months of the 2017 season and playoffs with a torn hamstring.
“It felt amazing,’’ Morris said of getting back on the field. “That’s what gave me the motivation last year to keep working hard during the tough times — it was this moment. To come back and hear that crowd noise and be back playing on this field.
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“It was a very emotional night.’’
Morris scored his goals 10 minutes apart in the opening half. He’d managed three goals his entire 2017 sophomore season after netting 12 in a 2016 debut that saw him named MLS Rookie of the Year.
Playing out on the right wing, a new position for the former striker — who previously had been on the left wing when not directly up top — Morris provided an extra dimension to a Sounders attack that appeared unstoppable at times. Lodeiro collected two assists in the game, as did Victor Rodriguez while striker Raul Ruidiaz scored his 14th goal for the team in 17 matches since coming over during last July’s transfer window.
“It was pretty special,’’ Morris said of how the night went. “Again, I think the most important thing is the three points (in the standings) because … with the new playoff format the regular season is even more important so to get off to a good start — because we haven’t the last couple of years — is great for this club. And I think we’re going to do some big things this year.’’
The league’s new single-elimination playoff format means the top seeds in each conference will secure home games throughout the postseason leading up to the MLS Cup final. The Supporters’ Shield winner for the league’s top overall record would be guaranteed only home matches all the way through the championship round as well.
Among the teams expected to compete with the Sounders for Western Conference supremacy this year, both Los Angeles squads won their opening matches but Sporting Kansas City lost while Portland tied. In the Supporters’ Shield picture, D.C. United won its opening match, but Atlanta United FC lost and both New York teams had draws.
Securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs would be enormous for a Sounders team that has lost only six games at home since coach Brian Schmetzer took over the team from Sigi Schmid in July 2016. Though CenturyLink Field played host to an MLS Cup final as a neutral site in 2009, the Sounders played both of their championship matches on the road in Toronto and would love to host one in front of 60,000-plus fans.
Schmetzer said after Saturday’s opener the team is well aware of the new playoff format and the added importance of this year’s regular season. “We are very cognizant of what we need to accomplish to get one, two, maybe even a third home (playoff) game here,’’ he said. “So, that is for sure on everybody’s radar — coaching staff, players — we understand how vital points are going to be with the new format.’’
Schmetzer hopes the resurgence of Morris can play a key role in securing those home playoff games.
“Jordan had a good game,’’ he said of the opener. “The one thing I was most pleased about was, in his own words, he wanted to be ‘goal dangerous.’ Playing out on the wing certainly was not new to him because in 2016 we had him over here on the left. But he said to you (media) guys he wanted to be goal dangerous and he certainly was.
“And that is what I’m going to latch on to. Using his own words as sort of guidance for him to finish the year on a high note as well.’’