MLS Footnotes: Jordan Morris is able to lead Sounders again to playoffs and past
Editor’s Note: MLS Footnotes takes you inside the foremost speaking factors across the league and throughout American soccer.
It’s been a whirlwind previous few months for Jordan Morris. The U.S. males’s nationwide group ahead went to his first FIFA World Cup in November and made two appearances off the bench, together with the Americans’ spherical of 16 loss to the Netherlands. He performed within the Club World Cup in Morocco in February. Now, three weeks into the brand new MLS season, Morris is main the league in targets — not unhealthy for a man who mans the wing for the Seattle Sounders.
“I play as winger, but I’ve always prided myself on being a goalscorer,” Morris advised FOX Sports forward of Saturday’s matinée in opposition to defending MLS Cup champ LAFC (4 p.m. ET, FOX). “I was a No. 9 in college and starting out with the national team and the Sounders, so I still have that hunger to score. That was a big mindset of mine going into this year.”
As a group, Seattle’s mindset was to redeem themselves. That could seem unusual; final spring, the Sounders grew to become the primary American group to win the CONCACAF Champions League. They additionally by no means recovered from their sluggish begin in league play and missed the postseason for the primary time since getting into MLS in 2009.
Fans and media blamed the lengthy and grueling Champions League run plus accidents — key midfielder João Paulo suffered a season-ending ACL tear within the last in opposition to Mexico’s Pumas — for the failure. The Sounders did not see it that manner contained in the locker room.
“To not make the playoffs wasn’t acceptable,” Morris mentioned. “It lit a fire under us. You could see the energy in the first couple of games. We definitely have something to prove.”
Despite going virtually 4 months with out a aggressive recreation, the Sounders narrowly missed out on a semifinal assembly with mighty Real Madrid on the Club World Cup; Egypt’s Al Ahly eradicated Brian Schmetzer’s squad on a fluky 88th minute purpose. They began the 2023 MLS marketing campaign with a pair of convincing wins, over the Colorado Rapids and Real Salt Lake, earlier than dropping 1-0 in Cincinnati final weekend.
Saturday’s marquee contest in Seattle shall be revealing. That this time the guests are the group preventing on a number of fronts might assist. After fielding a full-strength lineup in Wednesday’s Champions League loss to Costa Rica’s Alajuelense, LAFC is prone to sit a few of their starters out on the journey north. After spending all week at dwelling making ready, the Sounders shall be totally rested.
“We want to try to play fast and put them under pressure because potentially some of their guys will have tired legs,” Morris mentioned. “We know how difficult that was last year, just the wear and tear of playing in the Champions League and the international travel involved.
“But we additionally know LAFC has a very deep group, like we do,” he added. “Whoever they put out on the sphere, it is gonna be an excellent take a look at.”
1. CONCACAF quarterfinals set
Wednesday defeat at home wasn’t fatal for LAFC, which advanced to the last eight of the Champions League 4-2 on aggregate over the two legs.
Carlos Vela & Co. are joined in the quarterfinals by two other MLS teams: the Vancouver Whitecaps, which also lost Tuesday but progressed on total goals, and Philadelphia Union, 4-0 winners Wednesday over Alianza after last week’s stalemate in El Salvador. Meanwhile, Austin and Orlando City were knocked out by Violette (Haiti) and Tigres (Mexico) respectively.
At least one MLS club is guaranteed a spot in the semis: LAFC will meet Canadian champ Vancouver in the next round, which begins in early April. The Union will face Atlas of Liga MX.
2. LAFC keeps rolling in MLS play
The title holders remain perfect through two league games. LAFC thumped the New England Revolution 4-0 last Sunday without several starters. Denis Bouanga, who also had the lone goal against Alajuelense midweek, scored twice.
Steve Cherundolo’s men outshot the Revs 18-4 and forced keeper Djordje Petrović to make 12 saves. After two games, Bouanga looks like a Golden Boot award contender in his first full season in MLS.
Besides LAFC, expansion St. Louis is the only unbeaten, untied team – although the newbies have played one extra match. St. Louis will go for a fourth straight win Saturday against San Jose.
3. Injured stars in Philly, Miami, Toronto
Winless TFC got some bad news this week: star forward Lorenzo Insigne will miss Saturday’s visit from Inter Miami and at least two more games. The league’s highest paid player limped off in the first half of the Feb. 25 season opener and hasn’t been back since. The earliest Insigne could return is April 8 in Nashville.
Miami will be similarly shorthanded for Saturday’s match. The club announced on Tuesday that Gregore will be out for the next months following foot surgery. “We’re heartbroken for our captain,” Miami coach Phil Neville said of the Brazilian midfielder.
The diagnosis was better for Union keeper Andre Blake. Philadelphia coach Jim Curtin feared the worst when Blake was forced to leave last week’s win against Chicago with a non contact injury, but he’s only expected to miss a week or two.
On Friday, Blake was named as one of six finalists for CONCACAF 2022 men’s player of the year. Two MLS alums (Tyler Adams of Leeds and Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies) are also on the list.
4. Sounders return to Club World Cup
It took more than 20 years for an MLS team to end Mexican clubs’ domination of the CONCACAF region. There were ear misses along the way. Seattle sacrificed blood, sweat, and possibly playoff berth to make the milestone achievement for the U.S. and Canada’s top league finally happen.
Contrast that with Tuesday, when Seattle qualified for the expanded 2025 Club World Cup without kicking a ball. FIFA is expanding the competition to 32 teams that year, and the Sounders received an automatic invite along with 2021 CONCACAF champ Monterrey. The 2023 and ’24 winners also qualify. That means up to three MLS teams will participate in 2025 – four if the United States is selected to host the event.
Morris is already looking forward to getting another crack at the Club World Cup. The Sounders were devastated to fall after just one match in Morocco, missing the chance to face Karim Benzema, Luka Modrić, Vini Jr. and the rest of Real Madrid’s Galácticos on the global stage.
“Even if it did not finish how we wished it to, it was a fantastic expertise for our group,” he said. “I do know it is a bit bit away, however the membership is already wanting ahead to 2025.”
Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.
Top tales from FOX Sports:
Get extra from MLS Follow your favorites to get details about video games, information and extra