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SBI College Preview Spotlight: Jordan Morris balancing pressures of school, high expectations and national team duties

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Being a student-athlete is far from easy. You have to worry about classes and practices, exams and games, studying material and opponents, travel, and so much more.

Being a student-athlete who does all that while also representing the U.S. Men’s National Team? Well, that’s a whole other challenge.

Jordan Morris experienced something that very few other Americans have, as he was called up by the U.S. while still being a college player. It was not just a one-time thing either. Morris was summoned on multiple occasions by U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann during the fall months of 2014 and also selected for a U.S. Under-23 camp during that time, all of which helped to accelerate the young forward’s development by exposing him to higher levels of the game.

It was all a dream come true for Morris, but it also came at a price. Having to travel far for camps was admittedly tough for him, and the fact that they came during the college season meant he missed several games for Stanford. He could not, would not turn down the calls to represent his country, of course, but his production for the Cardinal dropped. Morris went from six goals and seven assists in his freshman year in 2013 to four and six as a sophomore.

With Morris still seen as one of the more talented U.S. prospects and key international games like Olympic qualifiers on the horizon, the 20-year-old junior will likely be put through the wringer and miss matches again for Stanford this season. That still will not be enough of a reason for him to not up his goal and assist numbers, not if the Cardinal is to build on an impressive 2014 campaign that saw them win the Pac-12 before getting upset in their first game of the NCAA tournament.

Experience is on his side, however, after a whirlwind year that saw him juggle so many commitments.

“He’s been through this before now,” Stanford head coach Jeremy Gunn told SBI. “I think for him as an individual he’ll be quite ready to manage the challenges that you face when you’re hopefully continuing to get action with the Under-23s – they’ll have qualifiers and different things.

“Obviously you never take anything for granted, but at least if he’s fortunate enough to be called upon again I think he’ll be more experienced with managing the environment. It has to be an incredible thrill, but an incredible roller coaster of a year when you’re going from one thing to the next, to the next, and suddenly your whole world changes.”

That it has. Morris may be an unassuming person by nature, but he is no longer your typical student-athlete. He has just north of 12,000 followers on Twitter, and is getting recognized more and more on campus. He is also talked about quite a bit in the public sphere, with press and fans already trying to make future decisions for him by saying when he should leave school and turn pro and whether he is better off signing with MLS or a league abroad.

Frankly, Morris is more like a highly-coveted college football prospect these days than your average college soccer star, at least from an attention point of view.

This level of publicity may be preparing Morris for what is to come when he inevitably joins the professional ranks, but is not necessarily something he is enjoying. Whereas some college players would welcome the exposure, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Morris is still in the process of managing it all, learning how to block the outside noise while keeping focused on the task at hand that is this season.

“It has been a little bit tougher,” Morris told SBI. “I’m definitely a guy that likes to lay low in the shadows, and to have all this come out I’ve had to change that a little bit. I’ve been in the spotlight a little bit more – which is unbelievable and such a dream come true to be able to play for my country and it’s just such an honor – but it has been tough. I still haven’t quite learned how to deal with it, but I feel like I’m getting better.

“What I try to do is just try to not read the stuff, the tweets and all that stuff. I just try and kind of stay away from that as much as I can. When I first came out, I was like, ‘I need to read all the stuff, see what people are saying,’ but there’s so many people out there that have their opinion, you just have to kind of let that one go and just push that stuff off to the side.”

Morris noticed the biggest change in his public persona this past April after he scored a game-winning goal in another 2-0 U.S. win against arch-rival Mexico in a friendly. His performance had many U.S. fans drooling, with some even going as far as comparing Morris to American legend Landon Donovan, whose first international goal was also a winner in a 2-0 victory over El Tri.

If the hype train had not left the station then, it surely did in June when Morris assisted on a decisive 90th-minute strike for the U.S. against the Netherlands. Morris, however, did not get to build on that performance at the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July because he needed the first surgery of his career.

The Mercer Island, Washington, native was sidelined for a chunk of the summer because of the procedure on his leg, and only resumed training fully with Stanford about a-week-and-a-half ago. He is not feeling 100 percent himself yet on the field, but is still more than eager to getting back to competing in games that count for the Cardinal after an offseason that was made to feel longer because of his spell of inacvity.

“It was really tough, for sure,” said Morris. “It was not exactly how I wanted to spend my summer, it wasn’t the best summer I would have to say. It was frustrating, but I have to put that behind me now and just focus on the season and focus on what I can do to help the team.

“No matter how I’m feeling, just go out there and do what I can to help the team achieve its goals. That’s the main thing. It was very frustrating, but moving on from it and now I’m excited to play.”

Morris is even more enthusiastic about getting the season underway because he believes his finishing is the aspect of his game that has most improved from 2014. Not totally pleased with the numbers he put up, Morris worked on his finishing in the winter and spring in preparation for this upcoming campaign.

Questions, of course, will persist during the course of the coming months as to whether this is his final year at Stanford. Morris has the tools to turn pro right now, but has pushed off doing so because he wants to enjoy the college experience since it is one he will “never get back”.

Whenever Morris does decide to play professionally, he will have to make a decision as to whether or not he takes the Seattle Sounders up on a Homegrown Player deal, turns that down and becomes the gem of the MLS Draft, or explores opportunities abroad.

For now, though, he has put thinking about that on pause and shifted his much of his attention towards trying to help Stanford enjoy a strong year.

“That stuff is in the future, and right now I just focus on helping my team throughout the season and hopefully helping my team win a national championship,” said Morris. “I think that’s our ultimate goal, and that’s what we all want. For right now that’s my main focus and after the season is over we can reevaluate that stuff a little bit, but for now just really focused on helping my team.

“I want to score more goals and try to be the leading goal-scorer in the country, the lead goal-scorer for our team, but that’s all in an attempt to help out the team do as well as we can.”


  1. Otherwise, nice write up.
    I can totally see his thoughts about the college experience. I would not have traded mine for almost anything (although a pro career might have swayed me).

    • Kind of a broad stroke assuming he will go the MLS route.

      Wonder if he was not injured and riding the wave of success at the senior level if he would still be at Stanford?

  2. He’s facing some tough decisions soon, and I don’t envy him that, because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do when I was 20. I have to agree that if he wants to be a pro soccer player, he would be better off doing it asap, since he sure looks ready to contribute, you worry about injuries playing in college, he could be making money already, etc. If he wants to be a MD, then more power to him, this country needs good MDs more than we do soccer players. And it wouldn’t be easy to come back from a pro soccer career and go that route. Finish a bachelor’s degree, sure. Get into med school, much trickier.

    • Of course he could go back to school and become whatever he wanted. A medical school won’t accept someone because they took a break from school to pursue a professional soccer career? If there’s doubt about him playing soccer after college, we shouldn’t be wasting USMNT callups on him.

      • He could get into medical school after a pro soccer career. My bro in law did it after an NFL career and Johns Hopkins no less. They like things like that they can brag about – the exceptional background of their students. I agree about we shouldn’t be wasting caps if there is doubt about his pro aspirations. For that reason I don’t think he should have been called up to the senior team period. Until he has made the commitment to be a pro player, call up someone else. U23 team call ups are enough until he does that.

      • “I agree about we shouldn’t be wasting caps if there is doubt about his pro aspirations. For that reason I don’t think he should have been called up to the senior team period. Until he has made the commitment to be a pro player, call up someone else.”

        Wasting caps? That’s ridiculous.

        From what I’ve seen Morris is right now as good as anyone else they could have brought up in his he’s where he is in the USMNT depth chart on merit.

        Forward is a position of need for the USMNT.

        His life is his own and no one knows what the future will hold. But for now , if he’s fit , ready and available you cap him because he is, right now, one of the USMNT’s best forwards.

      • Thank you, GW, for injecting some sense into this comments section. I’m blown away by how many boneheaded fans on here have such miserable lives that they get all bent out of shape because a 20-year-old isn’t acting according to their selfish wishes.

        Jordan Morris wasn’t put on this earth to make anyone feel good about being a U.S. soccer fan. Maybe people would benefit from finding a new hobby if it bothers them so much that he wants to experience college life with his peers.

        The sense of entitlement on here is ridiculous.

      • The people are similar to those who eviscerated Landon when he did not want to carry their torch and play in Europe because playing at home and for the USMNT was his main priority..

        Those people are the ones who named him Landycakes which was not a term of endearment.

        On SBI, there used to be a roughly 50/50 split between LD and Clint for the title of best American, the difference being Clint excelling in Europe. I hear very little about that these days.

        JK cutting him from the WC turned LD into a martyr and the same people who named LD Landycakes have turned around and now try to crucify JK for saying the same things about Landon that they did earlier.

        You’d think most USMNT fans would find Morris a good story but since JK “discovered” him, had faith in him and gave him his shot, it seems they can’t abide JK being proved correct about something, most especially, the evaluation of a player.

        Morris sounds like a pretty grounded person and seems to have a bunch of good people around him helping him out so I’m sure that whatever happens he will be fine.

  3. How much longer is Morris going to waste playing at a super low level during his key development years? You can always go back to school later Jordan, you only get a limited time to play soccer.

    • No way. He should stay in college until he gets a gen adidas contract. That way he can do both and still get his expensive Stanford education paid for. If he is really so much above the college level as you imply, he will get a Gen Adidas contract by December.

      • Do they still even have those? A serious soccer player would be challenging himself at a professional level by now. Of course he is above the college level. He’s already played for the national team while 99%+ of college players will never even set foot on the field at even MLS level.

      • They still had them as of the last super draft so I’m assuming they will still have them for the next. I hope they keep them because some of these kids really need them like the UCLA player from Ghana who was dirt poor. If he were to go pro and then get a career ending injury, he will have nothing.

      • If he’s dirt poor and good enough to play professionally, why doesn’t he turn pro and earn some money? Who are you talking about?

    • I wouldn’t consider getting a free ride to Stanford a waste. Even if he wanted to go pro having a fallback position will get him better terms on whatever contract he eventually does sign.

      • He can get that after his career is over. You have a limited window to play soccer and he’s already wasted two years of it. Will he waste two more? Looks that way.

    • LoL I get it, kid has obvious talent we’d ll love to see maximized to the benefit of our National team if possible.Does seem you’ve got a real itchy trigger for anything or anybody that colors outside the lines of Slowleftarm’s rigid convention. There’s room for all kinds of people, situations, motivations, talents and path’s to success. The kid should live his own life by his own set of priorities and ethics not to fulfill the expectations and needs of fans, managers, agents. Ultimately, the next big things will come and it is he who will have to live with the results of his decisions in his day to day life. The market will sort out his soccer career. He’ll either be good enough or he won’t. Regardless, U.S. Soccer will be just fine and it appears soccer superstar or not, this multi-talented kid Morris will be too..

      • Not at all.

        There is no job in the world that compares to being a professional soccer player. Please. It bothers us because most of us fans would kill to have the talent that Morris has and have a shot at the big leagues…and he is willing to sacrifice his career for a diploma that he can get any time.

        NCAA soccer is HORRIBLE for a player’s development. It literally breaks every rule of youth development and is the main reason we aren’t an elite soccer power despite having first world facilities, diet, and more registered youth soccer players than anywhere in the world. Spending 18-22 playing NCAA soccer will prevent him from fulfilling his potential. It won’t end his career, but he will not be the player he could have been had he, say, joined the right club in Europe. This isn’t basketball or gridiron we’re talking about, soccer players peak much earlier and it is a much more competitive sport. Every year counts and development isn’t consequential…a player has to be brought up in the perfect environment to become great.

      • slowleftarm, soccer fan, wood chip zip,

        Y’all might want to read the article again a bit more closely.

        “Morris has the tools to turn pro right now, but has pushed off doing so because he wants to enjoy the college experience since it is one he will “never get back”.”.

        It’s not the degree. Everyone knows he can get that later.

        It is “the experience” , itself. That “experience” is a one shot, time limited deal. If he goes pro now that will be gone and never come back Here’s a cliche for you; all the money in the world can’t buy that sort of thing.

        Whatever your college experiences might have been , are or will be, Morris’ clearly has been an enjoyable one. He’s not dirt poor so he can, if he chooses, see it through.

        In case you’ve never been to Stanford it is, as the cliche goes a very special place. Andrew Luck , the NFL QB, thought it special enough to risk staying the whole 4 years when he clearly could have come out early. And I’d say he had a awful lot more to lose than your boy Jordan does at least from the dollar and cents POV.

        In fact he would be guy whose opinion on Morris’ choice would be the most interesting to get. His dad, Oliver Luck was , I believe, the former president of the Houston Dynamo and Luck is a well known USMNT fan as well as being a very sharp guy.
        Based on this article that Stanford experience may already have been tainted by his sudden celebrity so maybe it is already ruined for him and he may just go ahead and turn pro which would make you all very happy I’m sure.

        More likely, he will ignore everyone else and , like the guy he is most often compared to , Landon Donovan, follow his heart.
        Personally, I ‘d love to see him give everyone a case of proctoplegia and be good enough to stay in Stanford the whole 4 years and still excel for the USMNT.

        It probably won’t happen but you never know. He’s already way ahead of where everyone thought a guy like him would be.

        You guys are all spouting orthodoxy when it is clear that Morris just may be that one ……………..(Tarantino cultural reference likely to be moderated)…

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