There’s Something About Jordy

Since mid-summer there’s been little question whether Jordan Morris would be the top rookie in the land. All that’s remained to be seen is just how far our Jordy boy goes.

With a tight hamstring it remains to be seen how much Morris can contribute Morris in coming weeks. Yet his prospects are unlimited in the big picture, at least where Seattle homegrown attacking players are concerned, and he’s got no more fervent fans than the forwards in whose footsteps he follows.

Jordan Morris became the fifth Sounder selected as league rookie of the year, all homegrowns. (Courtesy Sounders FC)

In the pantheon of Seattle soccer over the past 50-odd years, there have been some truly remarkable, even iconic forwards. Each experienced a great deal of joy while scoring an abundance of goals, albeit while using often vastly different sets of tools. And while still in development, Morris may prove to be a distinctive cocktail all his own.

Chance Fry has keenly followed Morris’s development for any number of reasons. First, Fry’s a Sounders fan. He also coached an 8-year-old Morris at Eastside FC. Beyond that, Fry has walked in his boots, playing a total of nine seasons for past iterations of the Sounders and FC Seattle.

“Jordan is having an amazing first year,” says Fry, a Bellevue native who debuted for the NASL Sounders in 1983 at age 18. “I’d thought if he could get to double digits (in goals) that would be fantastic.”

In fact, the pride of Mercer Island set a new standard for American rookies in MLS, scoring 12 times. Pat Noonan had totaled 10 in 2003.

For those who have witnessed the professional era of soccer in this area, Morris is very much his own man, albeit an amalgam of many characters to represent Seattle in the past.

Chance Fry scored 61 goals for the Sounders and FC Seattle over nine seasons. He coached Morris early on. (Frank MacDonald Collection)

“Nobody’s completely original,” notes Fry. In terms of physical attributes–size, strength and build–“he might be like (Fredy) Montero. For flat-out speed, he’s got Montero beat but not quite Obafemi (Martins).” But then, Fry adds, “Oba’s a freak.”

A Brief History of Homegrowns

Pro-caliber scorers have been coming out of Puget Sound since before the first Sounders. Hungarian-born and Ballard-raised Les Mueller made a few bucks at the semi-pro level before a short stint with the Denver Broncos. But most recognize Mark Peterson as planting the flag for homegrown forwards.

At 19, Peterson burst on the scene with 14 goals in 1980, helping Seattle win an NASL record 25 games. Half of those goals came after rookie of the year balloting was completed; he finished third. His youth club teammate and fellow Tacoman Jeff Durgan won the honor.

Tacoma native Mark Peterson finished as the NASL Sounders’ career goals leader (61). (Frank MacDonald Collection)

Fry was the next striker in the local pipeline. Both he and Peterson earned U.S. caps. After the NASL folded, Fry led the A-League in scoring while Peterson plied his trade indoors before retiring after just six years. Fry stretched his career 14 years, including nine in Seattle.

The next batch of homegrowns, like Morris, went the college route initially. Peter Hattrup and Brent Goulet starred at small schools (Seattle Pacific and Warner Pacific, respectively) before going pro. Starring for the Olympic team, Goulet would earn 1988 U.S. Soccer Player of the Year. Hattrup was 1995 A-League MVP.

The mid-Nineties featured the likes of Jason Dunn, Darren Sawatzky, Jason Farrell, and Erik Storkson. Prior to Morris, the most recent goal-dangerous locals were A-League/USL rookies of the year, Greg Howes and Cam Weaver, and, in the MLS era, Lamar Neagle.

Peter Hattrup earned A-League MVP honors in 1995 as the Sounders won their first title. (Frank MacDonald Collection)

The most prolific of the aforementioned frontrunners were Peterson and Fry, each accumulating 61 goals in all competitions. Peterson was the consummate poacher, faithfully making runs and forever getting on the end of things. Fry, a prototypical center-forward, often operating with his back to goal, is termed by Hattrup, “as a good of finisher as I’ve ever seen.”

Already Distinctive

From this canvas emerges Morris, whose silhouette would be instantly recognizable for his broad, hulking shoulders and pigeon-toed gait. He cuts a distinctive figure.

A dozen goals is just a baseline. “He’s got the physical gifts, but he’s got to grow into the finishing department,” says Hattrup. “He’s got the strength and the speed. His touch is good, and for as many goals as he’s got, his finishing is only going to get better,” adding, “It’s already gotten better over the course of the season.”

As a rookie, Morris converted 17 percent of his shots into goals. It pales in comparison to Martins, but it’s comparable to Eddie Johnson’s days at the CLink.

Early on, Fry detected unease in Morris, especially in light of the adulation and the Space Needle poses, a la Messi. “Jordan, he’s a humble guy and doesn’t like attention,” he shares. “I think he got a little overwhelmed.”

Morris celebrates his late winner versus Columbus. (Courtesy Sounders FC)

Once Morris settled and Nico Lodeiro arrived, the growth spurt ensued. Lodeiro’s made everyone better, and none more than the rookie, whose sixth sense is probing those spaces behind the defense, an area Lodeiro is always looking to exploit with a penetrating pass.

By mid-September, Morris’s was not only flowing, his production kicked into overdrive. It began with his late header to break a scoreless stalemate versus Vancouver.

“It was an extremely important goal and for me, personally in regards to Jordan, it was a brave goal,” judges Fry. “Sticking his head in there the way he did and just going for it. That whole game he had been making good runs and he just kept going and going.”

Making the Sublime Look Simple

Eight days later at LA, Morris was smack in the middle of the match that turned the MLS Western Conference playoff race on its head. He struck twice in 10 minutes, putting the Sounders ahead, 3-1.

First he won a ball just inside the attacking half, then shrugged off Daniel Steres before igniting the afterburners for the breakaway. Later, out of a frantic goalmouth scramble, Morris calmly pulls the ball across Steres and slots home from short range.

A late Morris header versus Vancouver launched a four-match win streak. (Courtesy Sounders FC)

“The first goal was a great goal, but the second goal was downplayed by Alexi (Lalas, FOX analyst), where he said it was a simple finish. No, it wasn’t,” contends Fry. “It was completely great composure. He made it look simple, but it was far from simple.”

Making the sublime look simple is a gift. As Morris matures, as his belief in his own abilities grows, such exploits will be repeated on a regular basis.

“It’s part of confidence,” states Hattrup. Compared to college, the pro game requires much more precision. “The windows are smaller, (but) he’s strong enough and fast enough that he’ll create chances for himself.”

Fry agrees. He’s improving with his back to goal, and as his on-field understanding with Lodeiro (not to mention other teammates) deepens, there’s every reason to believe Morris will truly distinguish himself as a legend among Sounders homegrowns.

“He’s growing and doing better,” says Fry, “and we’re all super proud of how he’s doing.”

Do your part to get Seattle the MLS team it deserves

Note: This was first published by The Seattle Times on October 27, 2002.

Are you ready for some futbol ?

We’re talking shin guards and shorts. We’re talking the world’s game, played by the best athletes around and at the highest possible level. We’re talking about a steady diet of big-time soccer for the local community, not only next week but for years to come.

Last spring’s stopover by the U.S. World Cup team and the women’s Gold Cup next weekend represent a beginning. But Seattle and its surrounding soccer community deserve the best, and more of it. Now it’s time we demand it.

Top-class soccer is what’s been missing in this city for 20 years, and I dearly want it to return. I’m not alone, either.

Continue reading Do your part to get Seattle the MLS team it deserves

Shared Experience: The Tie That Binds

Coming a Long Way While Putting Family First

It was a simple point of fact and yet so telling. Fourteen members of Seattle University’s original varsity soccer team were reuniting 50 seasons after the program first formed.

Later that day, the ranks of alumni would swell to about a hundred former Chieftains and Redhawks as defending champion Seattle U hosted its WAC opener, a win over nationally-ranked Utah Valley. A capacity crowd was expected under the lights at Championship Field.

Alumni from 50 seasons of soccer at Seattle University converged on Championship Field for the September 30 reunion. (Courtesy Seattle University)

But at brunch that morning, as they shared stories and consumed plates of eggs, sausage and toast, Joe Zavaglia stood to interject a timely piece of information: This was the first time these teammates had shared a meal together.

“It’s 50 years of history of guys who have played through tougher times but never as successful as times as these, (and it’s) a cause to celebrate,” recalls Zavaglia, the first team captain. “It’s an incredible feeling.”

Continue reading Shared Experience: The Tie That Binds

A History of Outbursts

If set to a soundtrack, the game is more suited to symphony than garage band. Fortunes can change quickly in soccer, but usually following a long, drawn-out build-up. Yet there are the exceptions, when the drumbeat does double-time and the cymbals crash repeatedly.

So it was on Sunday. Just when it was seeming Dallas and Seattle were destined to finish the first leg of their series in a scoreless stalemate, the Sounders came unleashed, attacking in fury and soon finding themselves as top dog in a pairing with the top side in MLS this season.

Reversing roles, scorer (Nicolas Lodeiro) celebrates with creator (Jordan Morris) after the second of the three goals vs. Dallas. (Courtesy Sounders FC)

Interim (Really? Still?) coach Brian Schmetzer pondered in his postgame presser whether he’d ever witnessed anything quite like it, the succession of blows by Valdez, Lodeiro and, again, Lodeiro during an 8-minute span early in the second half.

Continue reading A History of Outbursts