Sounders coach Sigi Schmid has been evasive early this week when asked if rookie forward Jordan Morris will return to the starting XI for this Sunday's nationally televised match at Houston.
When Jordan Morris was relegated to the Sounders’ bench for Saturday’s home match against Montreal, coach Sigi Schmid intimated that dropping the rookie forward out of the starting lineup was a short-term shift. And though that still might turn out to be the case, Schmid was evasive this week when asked if Morris will return to the starting 11 for Sunday’s nationally televised match at Houston.
“We’ll see,” Schmid said Tuesday. “We’ll see where we’re at as a team. That’s one of those ‘gut feeling’ things.”
Morris played the final 33 minutes of the Impact match after coming on as a substitute for Aaron Kovar. After spending most of Seattle’s first three matches looking increasingly uncomfortable out on the right wing, Morris lined up mostly as a central forward but was still unable to net his first MLS goal.
“I wanted Jordan to find his game and enjoy his game. There’s been a lot of expectation that’s been heaped upon him, not least of which from you guys,” Schmid said to reporters. “Sometimes it’s good to take a step back. If the front door is locked, you take a step back and look at the back door and make your way in that way.”
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Morris also is still dealing with emotional fallout of the U.S. Under-23 team’s failure to qualify for this summer’s Olympics.
“He’s 100 percent healthy and 100 percent fit,” Schmid said last week, “those aren’t the issues.”
The U-23s fell in a two-game, loser-out series against Colombia, managing just one shot on goal in 180 minutes. The U.S. also squandered a chance to qualify automatically in October, losing 2-0 to Honduras in another winner-to-Rio game in the CONCACAF semifinals.
“To be one game away from going to the Olympics and to come up short is pretty tough to swallow,” Morris said before the Montreal match. “ … It’s something that you grow up dreaming about and watching, and when you’re that close, to come up short is pretty tough, and I think it’s going to be tough for a while.”
Developing young players is an inexact science. For every DeAndre Yedlin — who both hit the ground running and made critical adjustments without taking a step back — there’s a Kei Kamara. Schmid drafted Kamara for Columbus and later traded him to San Jose, only to watch from afar as the veteran forward finished as the runner-up for the 2015 MLS MVP award after rejoining the Crew years later.
Schmid did, however, likened Morris’ ability to take constructive criticism to that of fellow young Sounder Cristian Roldan, who has further established himself as a regular in his second season in Seattle.
“If Roldan does something and there’s an error, and you say something about it, you see that he adjusts that error out,” Schmid said.
Morris, who almost always favors his stronger right foot, spent Tuesday’s practice session using his left. He passed up first-time shooting opportunities, instead cutting inside to take shots with his off foot.
“You could see that he said to himself, ‘OK, I’ve got to work on my left foot. I’ve got to get better,’ ” Schmid said. “Those are the kids that make it. They’re able to take that information in, they’re able to apply it, and they’re able to use it to develop.”
Whether that process continues Sunday in Houston remains to be seen.