Sounders' Garth Lagerwey: Jordan Morris has "only scratched the surface"

When he signed with the Seattle Sounders in January, Jordan Morris walked into a world with an enormous amount of hype and an unreasonable amount of expectations.

By spurning German club Werder Bremen to sign the largest Homegrown contract in MLS history with his hometown Sounders, the US national team striker created a wave of excitement not seen in Seattle since Clint Dempsey joined the Sounders in 2013. Despite his youth and lack of experience on the pro level, the 21-year-old was expected to play a leading role for a Sounders attack that many thought would be among the best in MLS.

There’ve been more than a few bumps along the way, but Morris has mostly delivered. After a slow start to the season, the Stanford product ended the year with 12 goals (an American rookie record) and four assists in 34 appearances, good enough to take home Rookie of the Year honors.

He’s been even more impactful in the playoffs, recording an assist and two goals – including a massive strike that sealed the Western Conference Championship for Seattle – to help the Sounders qualify for MLS Cup on Saturday at Toronto FC (8 pm ET; FOX and UniMas in the US, TSN1/3/4/5 and RDS in Canada).

His continued growth has been huge for Seattle, who are enjoying watching their ballyhooed local boy turn into a club cornerstone.

“It’s amazing, it’s absolutely amazing. You simply can’t overstate not only how good he’s been, but how important he is to us,” Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey said on Monday’s edition of ExtraTime Radio. “He’s a hometown kid, a Homegrown player who has made good and delivered on everything. He’s been absolutely fabulous.”

Lagerwey pointed to Morris’ improvement with his oft-criticized left foot and ability to adapt to playing multiple positions – he’s lined up as a center forward and on the wing this year – as keys for his development during his rookie campaign. The Sounders GM also credited Morris’ strong play down the stretch to a part of the American soccer system that regularly comes under fire: the college game.

“Going to Stanford was really good for Jordan Morris,” he said. “The reason why he has been so successful in his rookie year is because he went to college. And that’s not true for everybody, and that’s not always a solution and I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to sign players as teenagers, but for some kids, that process of maturing and going away and playing in high pressure games… is important to note.

“There isn’t going to be one pathway for player development in this country and at a place like Stanford, it’s not just on the field, it’s off the field. If you go to a place like Stanford and you’re surrounded by Olympians and people that are the best at what they do, if that’s economics or history, you understand that you’re not such a special snowflake and you get some perspective that you might otherwise lack. I think that, as a person, is critical for development and that’s why I think he’s only scratched the surface for us.”

LISTEN: Seattle Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey on why losing Obafemi Martins was so tough, how the club landed Nico Lodeiro with the help of Luis Suarez, Clint Dempsey’s future and the development of Jordan Morris. 

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