With the USMNT camp underway, Morris discusses his comeback and goals
December 09, 2021
THE UNITED STATES NATIONAL team is currently assembled in California with a roster that is a blend of mostly domestic players with various levels of experience ranging from young U-20 players to established veterans.
Jordan Morris, 27, is among the more experienced American players on the roster with 39 caps. But unlike many other veterans, Morris needs this camp to justify that he is ready to help this team when World Cup qualifying resumes at the end of January.
On December 18, the U.S team will host Bosnia & Herzegovina and if Morris plays it will be his 40th cap. Through his first 39 caps, the Seattle native has 10 goals playing mostly on the wings. The problem for Morris, however, has been injuries. Back in February, Morris tore his ACL in his fourth appearance on loan with Swansea City in England. The loan was terminated and Morris returned to the United States for surgery in LA.
“I remember when I was going down to have my surgery, I flew to L.A,” Morris recalled. “On the plane ride down, I was working on kind of my goal sheets for this year and next year trying to bring some positivity into things. And part of my goal this year was to get back on the field before the season ended and get back into a national team camp before next year.”
Both of those goals ended up happening. Morris returned to the field for the Seattle Sounders on November 1 and ended up making three appearances to conclude the season. He managed to start his final outing in the playoffs and play 104 minutes as Seattle lost in a shootout to Real Salt Lake following a 0-0 deadlock.
Morris said that he in terms of fitness, he feels like he is at a pretty good level but his sharpness still has a ways to go.
“It's definitely still part of the part of the process,” Morris said. “I'm only probably nine months out from my surgery now and so was able to get back on the field a little bit earlier than what was maybe first anticipated - which is great. But things are still going to be coming… My fitness is at a pretty good level. It's the sharpness and getting all that back... I'm feeling pretty good with it, but definitely understand that I have more to go.”
Prior to the start of camp, Gregg Berhalter discussed Morris and his recovery. While he was happy to have Morris back with the team but that he simply doesn’t know yet whether he is ready to help the team in World Cup qualifying. After this camp, there will be a January training camp leading up to the international window for key domestic players.
Whether Morris remains with the team for the big three qualifiers is an open question.
"If we don't bring him into this camp he has no chance of playing qualifiers, right?" Berhalter said. "So our job now is to work with him these next four weeks and then when we're in camp to get him ready to see if he can make an impact and help in qualifiers. We know his talent level, we know what he brings to the team, it gives us a different dimension and it'd be nice to get him in a place where he can perform in these games but we just don't know yet, so we'll have to wait and see when he's in camp. He's made a lot of progress with Seattle they did a great job of getting him back on the field."
While at camp, Morris will get the opportunity to also be a veteran leader in addition to being a player who has a lot to prove. On the current team there are eight players eligible for the United States U-20 national team in 2023. Many of these players are coming off their first full season as a first-team professional.
Morris has been following the progress of the team and the player pool during his recovery for most of the year. He is encouraged by where the team currently sits in the Octagonal round of qualifying but admits that it has been hard to watch and not be at a point where he can be settled for selection.
For now, Morris is happy to be at the point where he can at least fight for an opportunity. Unfortunately, injuries are nothing new for Morris. His recent ACL tear was the second of his career. He also suffered a different knee injury at the 2017 Gold Cup which forced him out of the remaining World Cup qualifiers – which ended with the team’s failure to book at place in Russia.
Morris has had had an uneven career because of injuries but is now trending up. When looking at where he wanted to be on the eve of his surgery in February, he has made great progress. But now, the next steps will be just as hard.
“I think the team has done so well in some difficult environments to get really good results,” Morris said. “I obviously wasn't part of those games. But watching from afar, it was really difficult and wishing I could potentially be out there playing.”
“Throughout my rehab, getting back to be part of the national team - that was the main goal, to recover, get back to my best as quickly as possible and try and get back in with this group because that just means everything,” he added. “For me, it's just doing what I what I normally do - trying to stretch teams, get in behind, use my speed to unbalance teams and stretch things a bit. I'm just grateful to be back in this camp and looking forward to continuing to work.”