The first two times Jordan Morris came to St. Louis, the trips worked out pretty well.
The first time was in November of 2015, when he came off the bench to play the final 22 minutes of the U.S. national soccer team’s 6-1 win over St. Vincent and the Grenadines in a World Cup qualifier at Busch Stadium. It was the first appearance in a qualifier for Morris, at the time still a junior at Stanford.
He was back two months later, this time down the street at the Missouri Athletic Club, as he won the Hermann Trophy as the top male collegiate soccer player, following a season in which his Stanford team won the NCAA title and he had 13 goals in 18 games while missing five other games because of national team commitments.
“Those were both pretty good experiences,” said Morris, now playing for Seattle in Major League Soccer. “Getting to go to the Athletic Club, seeing all the history, playing in the World Cup qualifier at the Cardinals’ stadium. It’s a really cool city with a lot of sports history. Both times I’ve gone it’s been a great experience.”
Morris will likely be making a third visit on Sept. 10 when the United States plays Uruguay in a friendly match at Busch Stadium. The roster will be announced Wednesday morning.
The Uruguay game, though only an exhibition, is one more step on the road back for the Americans after their failed World Cup qualification effort for the 2018 tournament as new coach Gregg Berhalter assesses his personnel options before qualifying starts next year. In the wake of the failure to qualify for 2018, there was, not unexpectedly, a fair amount of turnover in personnel, though Morris is one of the carryovers from that cycle to this one. Four days before facing Uruguay, ranked fifth in the world, at Busch, the U.S. team will face Mexico in East Rutherford, N.J., in a rematch of the final of July’s Gold Cup, which Mexico won 1-0 to take the regional championship.
“Every time you can stack up against teams like that,” Morris said, “the better teams of the world, the better competition, it’s going to help you improve your game. The more exposure we get, the better team we’ll be. These are two good games for us.
“It was an unfortunate end to the Gold Cup, but we grew a lot as a team in that time. With the new coaching staff, it’s always great to get to get together. It’s a new system and every time we have an opportunity to grow as a team.”
Morris has liked playing under Berhalter, who took over in January.
“Super impressive,” he said. “The new coaches have done such a good job of getting everyone on the same page. It’s really important everyone understands their role (Morris’ role is playing wide and getting around the fullback) and that each person has an important role in the system. He’s done a good job of clearly defining the roles in the system and giving you an exact idea of what you need to do to help the team.”
Much has happened between the last time Morris was in St. Louis on soccer and his next time. He left Stanford after that season, had a tryout in Germany but chose to instead play for his hometown team (and the squad his father works for as team medical director), the Seattle Sounders. In his first season as a pro, Seattle won the MLS Cup. In 2017, Morris was with the national team in its unsuccessful run at the 2018 World Cup, though he wouldn’t have played had the team qualified. Early in 2018, in a club game in El Salvador as part of the CONCACAF Champions League, he tore his ACL and sat out the entire year. He’s come back this year with seven goals so far in 19 games for the Sounders, who are tied for second in the Western Conference.
“It was a tough summer for sure,” Morris said of 2018. “Of course the whole country was disappointed. Everyone wanted to be there. It’s always a huge disappointment. Then going through the ACL, that was a tough year in general. I was trying to grind back from that. I think in some ways it was giving me the mentality I needed for the game.
“It was very tough. I think the hardest part was being out of the game for so long. You wish you could be out with the team. It’s such a long road and you move really slowly. I was itching to get back out there. It was a tough nine or 10 months.”
For both Morris and the national team, the rebuilding continues to get back to where they want to be.
“I think it’s really good,” he said. “It’s been a great start. The guys are super motivated with the new staff. They’re integrating their new system and we’re being on the same page for a common goal. For me, everything is going well and every opportunity to get together is an opportunity to keep progressing.”