Michelle Kaufman

Michelle Kaufman: U.S. soccer fans should be excited about Jordan Morris

USA defender Jordan Morris (8) chases the ball against Mexico defender Hiram Mier during the first half of an international friendly soccer match, Wednesday, April 15, 2015, in San Antonio.
USA defender Jordan Morris (8) chases the ball against Mexico defender Hiram Mier during the first half of an international friendly soccer match, Wednesday, April 15, 2015, in San Antonio. AP

Jordan Morris appeared on Jurgen Klinsmann’s radar two and a half years ago, when Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid told the U.S. national team coach: “We have this special kid coming through the academy, but his dad is a doctor, and he wants to go to college.”

Morris’ father, Michael, was the Sounders’ team doctor. And the kid, who won countless youth soccer awards as a member of the Sounders’ academy, did, in fact, go to college. He enrolled at Stanford.

Last week, the 20-year-old sophomore became the first college player to score for the U.S. national team since Mike Sorber of Saint Louis University did it in 1992, before Major League Soccer existed. Morris didn’t just score any goal, either. He scored the game winner in a 2-0 victory over archrival Mexico in San Antonio on April 15.

“It’s hard to describe,” Morris told Fox Sports 1 after the match. “It’s a really emotional game any time we play Mexico. They’re a big rival of ours. Scoring a goal against them is something I’ve dreamed about since I was a little kid. So to make it happen is unbelievable.”

Exactly one week later, as a member of the U.S. Under-23 team, Morris scored against Mexico again in a 3-0 win.

It is too early to declare Morris The Next Great American — remember Freddy Adu? It is too early to anoint him The New Landon Donovan — those are huge cleats to fill.

But seeing Morris’ pace and the way he got through Mexican defenders, there is no question this diabetic kid from Mercer Island, Washington, is someone U.S. fans should be excited about heading into the Gold Cup this summer, the Olympics and Centennial Copa America in 2016, and the next World Cup in 2018.

“When you see a boy score his first international goal like that you jump for joy,” Klinsmann said. “There is a constant kind of positive path with him. Does he need to mature and get stronger? These things will come over time.”

Klinsmann has gotten some pushback for suggesting American players should play in Europe if they can rather than plying their craft in MLS or college. By starting Morris against Mexico, Klinsmann proved he has no hard-and-fast criteria for making the national team. If he thinks you’re good enough, he will give you a shot.

“When you develop players coming through the youth system, you always see the talent and the potential,” Klinsmann said. “If he’s playing in that moment with an MLS club, in Mexico, in Europe or for a college team, that’s not the key; the key is that he really gets, ‘What is the demand for me going forward?’ and I think that Jordan Morris has the talent and the potential.

“I think what he needs to learn now is to pick up a higher rhythm to go to the highest level possible and become consistent. He has the talent to break through, but it’s easier to do that in one game than it is to do in 40, 50, 60 games in one year. For him going forward, it’s about staying consistent at Stanford and calculating his path and his jump into the professional world sooner or later to become a consistent element in our Olympic team that strives toward Rio de Janeiro in 2016.”

Morris is a Type 1 diabetic but has not let that slow him down. He tweeted: “To all the young diabetics out there, keep working hard. Know anything is possible! Dream big! @JDRF [Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation].”

▪ The last word: MLS commissioner Don Garber, during a Friday interview with The Associated Press Sports Editors at the league office in New York, had this to say about Miami: “We’ll have an answer on Miami — it will be in the league by the end of the decade. What we were struggling with in Miami was that two mayors pushed us to two waterfront locations. Those didn’t work out. Are there other downtown urban locations that make sense? We believe there are several. David [Beckham] is committed to Miami.”

Miami Herald sports writer Linda Robertson contributed to this report.

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