It is too early to know for sure if 21-year-old Jordan Morris is America’s Next Great Player (remember Freddy Adu?).
What we do know is that his decision to turn down Bundesliga club Werder Bremen to play for his hometown Seattle Sounders last week was a great coup for Major League Soccer. Anytime an elite American player chooses to stay on U.S. soil rather than go overseas is another notch of validation for domestic leagues.
Of course, there will be skeptics who say, as they did about Landon Donovan, that Morris took the easy way out by staying in America, that to truly test himself and reach his full potential, he needs to test himself daily against top players in Europe.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann certainly has been beating that drum since he took over. In fact, he set up a 10-day trial with Werder Bremen for Morris and urged him to go and see what it’s like. Morris obliged, played very well, impressed coaches, but in the end picked what was more familiar.
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At Werder Bremen he would have faced great competition, including the likes of Bayern Munich, but he’d have been just another prospect. The club is in danger of relegation, so his salary might have dropped and his star dimmed if the team moved down. In Seattle, he will be treated like the golden child and given plenty of playing time during which to better his game. He also will earn $675,000 over the next three years — $225,000 per year.
This one was a no-brainer and shouldn’t come as a huge shock. After all, the Sounders had been courting Morris since middle school.
The Mercer Island native grew up following the Sounders from their USL days because his father was, and still is, the team doctor. He left his youth club to join the Sounders Academy team in 2012, scored 28 goals in 32 games and accepted a full scholarship from Stanford.
He played through his junior season at Stanford, led the Cardinal to its first men’s soccer national championship and won the Hermann Trophy, the soccer equivalent to the Heisman.
Klinsmann and his staff took notice and last April called him into camp. He became the first college player since 1999 to play for the U.S. team. He has played seven matches with the national team and scored the winning goal against Mexico.
Much to the delight of the crazed green-scarved Sounders fans, Morris said Seattle was where his heart was all along.
“In talks with Jurgen and [U.S. U-23 coach] Andi [Herzog], they helped set up that trial there [in Germany],” Morris said. “I knew I wanted to come home. It was a cool experience, but it reaffirmed my desire to play at home and in front of 45,000 fans at CenturyLink [Field]. It was a cool experience, but I’m more than excited to be at home.”
Klinsmann told ESPN FC that he supports Morris’ decision.
“I’m thrilled that Jordan decided to go pro; this is the really important decision,’’ Klinsmann said. “And I’m thrilled with the Sounders, that he goes into an environment that he knows, that he feels comfortable with and that he feels now that ‘at this specific point in time, this is the best move for me.’ He feels he’s not ready for Europe. He feels the next big step for him is the Sounders, where he knows everybody, and for us it’s great because the moment he steps now on the training field he’s in a professional environment. That’s good.”
Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey (yes, the same guy who played goalkeeper for the Miami Fusion) insists that despite the hype surrounding the signing in Seattle last week, the club will not burden Morris with unrealistic expectations.
“I was in [Washington] D.C. when they announced Freddy Adu, and I refuse to make Jordan a symbol or a pawn,” Lagerwey said.
That said, the team promoted the signing by having Morris stand atop the Space Needle with a team scarf over his head, and then blasted out that image alongside an image of Lionel Messi atop the Space Needle with a team scarf over his head. Surely, they didn’t mean to imply that Morris is Messi-like. But putting their photos side by side does send a clear message: This kid is a Really Big Deal.
Donovan piped up on Twitter: “He may have a better chance at a successful career if you don’t compare him to Messi the day he signs.’’
Hard to argue.
Strikers get a sponsor
The Fort Lauderdale Strikers’ jerseys will look a little different this coming season. They will include a yellow stripe across the front with the word Guaraviton in black. That is the name of a Brazilian energy drink, and the company on Friday was announced as a title sponsor for the Strikers.
The beverage company is using the NASL team to help introduce its product in the United States, and the team will get exposure in Brazil with the partnership. Brazilian legend and Strikers co-owner Ronaldo was in town and attended the news conference at Gulfstream Park.
EPL: Leicester City (47), Manchester City and Arsenal (44), Tottenham (42), Manchester United (37)
La Liga: Barcelona (48), Atletico Madrid (47), Real Madrid (43), Villarreal (41), Celta Vigo (34)
Serie A: Napoli (44), Juventus (42), Inter (40), Fiorentina (38), AS Roma (35)
Bundesliga: Bayern Munich (49), Dortmund (41), Hertha Berlin (33), Monchengladbach (29), Bayer Leverkusen (28)
Ligue 1: PSG (60), Nice and Monaco (36), Rennes and Angers (34), Caen (33)
On the Tube
Sunday: Everton vs. Swansea City (8:25 a.m., NBCSN), Atletico Madrid vs. Sevilla (9:55 a.m., BEINÑ), Arsenal vs. Chelsea (10:55 a.m., NBCSN).