Alex Morrell was far from the most highly-touted of prospects at the MLS Combine, but the diminutive North Florida midfielder has proven to be one of the biggest eye-openers of the pre-draft festivities.
A standout for the Ospreys, Morrell proved dominant in Atlantic Sun play throughout his career at North Florida. A three-time All-Conference selection, the forward tallied 10 goals throughout his college career while contributing a school-record 19 assists.
When the Ospreys’ season ended back in the fall, Morrell was left in a bit of limbo. Due to his small-school roots, Morrell’s invite to the January Combine was far from a given, as the process tends to favor players from more elite pedigrees.
Yet, Morrell knew he could play with the best. In the Osprey’s biggest game of the season against perennially-ranked North Carolina, Morrell scored his side’s lone goal in a 2-1 loss while proving to both coaches and himself that he deserved to be there with the top seniors.
The invite eventually came, as Morrell was given the chance to prove himself yet again against the best college players in the nation.
“I was confident that, as soon as I got done with my season, I would be here,” Morrell told SBI. “I knew that I had done well in the season, so I was pretty confident. It took a little while to get in, but I was confident that I was going to make it.
“Coming in here, I was a little bit nervous going against the big-time guys,” Morrell added, “but as soon as I got on the field and started warming up to these guys, I talked to them here in the hotel, there’s no difference between me and them. I take it as that. When I’m out there playing with those guys, it’s normal. It’s soccer. I love it.”
Listed at just 5-foot-7, 135 pounds, Morrell appears to be a bit undersized for the rough and tumble MLS, but for him, that’s OK. Citing his quickness and his ability to dip past defenders, Morrell says he has adapted to his low center of gravity while using it to take advantage of overstepping defenders.
Those displays have been on show in Fort Lauderdale, as Morrell’s efforts have seen the forward’s draft stock rise into first-round contention.
Following his most recent performances in front of MLS’ braintrusts, one MLS coach says that Morrell has the skill set to go “top 15” in Thursday’s draft as the North Florida star has surged up the SBI MLS Draft Big Board.
“He has things you can’t teach,” said one MLS coach who wished to remain anonymous. “He’s good, he’s fast, has a great engine. He did well and his best quality is that he goes one-on-one, and if the guy stops him, he gets it again and again. He’s different than most American players.”
Morrell says he is typically more comfortable on the wing despite his listing as a forward. From out wide, Morrell can fully utilize his ability to attack one-on-one while creating for both himself and those around him.
Coaches hope to see that ability transfer to the next level, although Morrell has yet to really think about Draft Day or what lies ahead.
Rather, Morrell is just focused on the task at hand and continuing to show that he can be as good as anyone in the 2016 MLS Draft class.
“It’s good competition out there,” Morrell said. “It’s really fun getting used to the top players in college soccer. I was excited when I was coming in, and I got really comfortable in warm-ups with my teammates. I just went in and did really well.
“I thought about that a little bit, yeah,” Morrell said of the draft, “but as soon as I think about it, I kind of take as step back and remember to just do what I have to do right here on the field first and think about that after.”