Jordan Morris very nearly scored eight minutes into his MLS career.
That was March 6 at CenturyLink Field. The Sounders took possession in Kansas City’s attacking end and worked the ball to Clint Dempsey at midfield. Dempsey passed to Andreas Ivanschitz, who sent it to the rookie running in space. Morris one-touched the ball into the penalty area and fired from 10 yards. The collective holding of breath throughout the stadium was followed by a collective groan. The shot went high, and Morris went down to the turf, hands to head.
Five games later, Morris’ initial MLS goal finally arrived Saturday in the 71st minute of Seattle’s 2-1 home win over the Philadelphia Union.
Once again, the opportunity was set up by Ivanschitz, who delivered a long pass from midfield. Morris ran onto it at the top of box, used his body to shield Philly defender Richie Marquez, and sent the ball low and past goalkeeper Andre Blake.
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Morris leapt, looked to the stands and then turned to his teammates. Veteran forward Nelson Valdez was the first to arrive with a congratulatory hug. Then Ivanschitz. Then Cristian Roldan. Then Clint Dempsey, followed by Chad Marshall, Dylan Remick and captain Brad Evans. As the scrum dissipated, Morris pointed to the sky and then waved to the roaring crowd.
“I’m feeling good,” Morris said afterward, providing the obvious answer to the obvious question. “Great ball by Andreas, and happy to put the ball away. … It was great to score in front of the fans and my family. That was awesome.”
Across the locker room, Ivanschitz returned the compliment.
“Right from the start when we signed him, there was a lot of pressure on him,” he said. “It’s very important that he scored his first goal. And I’m very happy about that because honestly, I was young too, and I know how hard it is at times. You get all these questions all the time like, ‘When will you score your first goal?’ ”
Great things were expected of Morris since long before he signed with his hometown team Jan. 21 — an occasion marked by a press conference in which the owner, general manager and coach all spoke about what a great day it was for the franchise.
Similar questions followed his miss in that first match. Soon enough, coach Sigi Schmid was implying that too much pressure was being applied by media. And last week Brad Evans said he had advised Morris to steer clear of social media and news reports.
But Morris could have reveled in both Sunday. The fans — even the most impatient ones — seem to want his career to follow the DeAndre Yedlin path: hometown guy makes good nationally and internationally. And it’s hard to imagine any Sounders reporters seeing him as anything other than a young man earnestly adjusting to a new challenge with grace and good intentions, despite the spotlight’s glare.
Such personal matters aside, his team needs an offensive kick. Seattle (2-3-1) has scored six goals in six games. Veteran central defender Chad Marshall tops the team with two goals. As the Sounders look to build on their three-game unbeaten run, they’ll need more from their forwards — veterans such as Dempsey and Valdez, and newcomers such as Morris and Oalex Anderson, who got his first MLS start Saturday.
“I’m sure (Morris) is very, very happy,” Schmid said. “… It’s great for him, it’s great for our city, it’s great for our team.”