Jordan Morris scored his first two goals since August 2017 in his first game back from a knee injury that scuttled his entire 2018 season. The Sounders cruised from there to a 4-1 victory over FC Cincinnati, scoring more goals in their opener than in their first four games combined last season.
For a guy who’d lost so much of the past two years to injury, Jordan Morris didn’t seem to mind his Sounders teammates piling on top of him in a celebratory mob.
They’d just seen Morris score his first Major League Soccer goal in 19 months to give them a lead they held for good in a 4-1 rout Saturday night of an expansion FC Cincinnati side. And after making sure he knew they’d taken notice of his struggles just getting back to this point, they let Morris back off the ground and got to see him do it all over again 10 minutes later when he scored his second goal of the contest.
“It was amazing,’’ Morris said of the pileup. “It was an emotional moment. With what my teammates helped me get through last year, because there were some tough times, when I came in this year they understood that maybe it would take a little time for me to get back to form.’’
It took just under 33 minutes, to be exact. That’s when Morris put the Sounders ahead 2-1 with a shot that deflected in off Cincinnati defender Nick Hagglund after a nice feed from Nicolas Lodeiro on the left side of the box.
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Kelvin Leerdam had tied the game six minutes prior by slotting a Lodeiro rebound into an open net after Cincinnati opened the scoring early on a rocket blast by Leonardo Bertone from 20 yards out.
Morris gave his team a two-goal advantage in the 43rd minute when, on the right side of the box this time, he took a cross from Victor Rodriguez and unleashed a left-footed shot that goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tytori could only watch sail on by him.
Raul Ruidiaz scored the game’s final goal in the 87th minute to send the crowd of 39,011 fans at CenturyLink Field home happy on a lopsided night in which the home side outshot the visitors 23-7 and enjoyed nearly 64 percent possession.
The Sounders came into the night knowing the first-year Cincinnati squad was one they had to beat to get off to the stronger start they’d wanted over the prior three seasons. It was a night that began with an emotional pregame tribute to former Sounders coach Sigi Schmid, who died in December of a heart ailment at age 65.
By halftime, they’d already scored more goals than in their first four games combined last season. A big reason was Morris, lost for the season a year ago with a torn ACL in his left knee during a CONCACAF Champions League game in El Salvador.
Morris had also missed the final few months of 2017 after badly tearing his hamstring – appearing only in the second half of that year’s MLS Cup final against Toronto post-injury. His prior MLS goal before Saturday had come weeks before the hamstring tear, on Aug. 5, 2017, against Minnesota, and was only his third that entire season coming off 12 scores in a 2016 Rookie of the Year performance.
That Morris scored his second goal using his left foot and not his right was also significant in putting an exclamation mark on his comeback. Even before his injury, the knock on Morris had been that he favored his right foot too heavily.
Morris acknowledged postgame he’s had plenty of time to work on things, especially knowing he’d be adjusting to a right wing spot instead of up top as a striker or flanked wide left as in the past. That included his left-footed work, which he also deployed on multiple crossing attempts.
“For me, I was coming in to a different position, so I’ve got to adjust my game a bit,’’ Morris said. “Part of that’s going to be using that foot more on service. So, I continued in the offseason working on that on crossing as well as on the finishing aspect.’’
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer admitted he feels a bit like “a proud Dad’’ when it comes to Mercer Island product Morris having success after all he’s been through. Schmetzer tried to compartmentalize his feelings about Morris throughout the match, viewing things more in the totality of what his best-paid scorers were doing.
Morris finished with the two goals, while Lodeiro and Rodriguez both collected two assists each. Schmetzer wasn’t always pleased with some of the team’s finishing – the final score could easily have been 8-1 – but he’ll take the result and the added “goal dangerous’’ dimension Morris brought to the attack.
“Jordan could be a better athlete now because of all the work he did last season,’’ Schmetzer said.
Goalkeeper Stefan Frei certainly liked the athleticism displayed by Morris and the other attackers after the stunning Cincinnati goal in the 13th minute had the visitors up 1-0 in a game the Sounders had dominated to that point.
“It was a great strike and I think we just took it as that and we moved on quite well,’’ Frei said of the opening goal. “We moved on and we responded well. But I was also happy with how we responded after every goal we scored all the way down to our fourth goal. They kicked off and we retrieved possession in five seconds.’’
And rarely ever let up in what looked like a continuation of last season’s stellar second-half run. With one more dangerous player now fully welcomed back to the fold.