What started out as a positional switch Jordan Morris wasn’t very fond of has evolved into an ideal change he has come to embrace.
Morris’ standout performance against Cuba on Friday — which saw him have a hand in five of the U.S. Men’s National Team’s seven goals — was the latest in a stretch of impressive outings for Morris on the right wing, where he has found a new home after transitioning from his original striker role for both club and country.
Morris scored a goal, tied a USMNT record with three assists, terrorizing the left side of the Cuban defense, while also making the occasional foray to the opposite wing to threaten there. His speed was too much for Cuba, and his improved crossing ability helped set up the first two goals of the match, just five minutes into the contest.
Morris has settled into a starting right wing role in Gregg Berhalter’s system, going back to the Gold Cup final. He has come a long way from March, when he struggled badly in the role in the team’s loss to Chile. Back then, Morris was still adapting to the position, which he had switched to with the Seattle Sounders.
“I think at the beginning of the season, and in the past I was kind of, when I would move out there it would be frustrating,” Morris said. “I’d rather be playing up front in the past, but I just needed to change my mentality. That I am a winger now, and that I need to get better at that craft, and that as my position moving forward where I feel like I’ll be playing. I definitely feel a lot more comfortable there having a full season under my belt in Seattle.”
Morris has thrived in his new role in 2019 for the Sounders, rebounding from the 2018 season he missed with a torn ACL, posting a career-high seven assist while contributing 10 goals for the playoff-bound Sounders.
His growth as a winger has been magnified in the months since the Gold Cup. Since July, he has generated six goals and five assists in 14 matches for Seattle, playing both as a right winger and occasionally as a left winger.
That good form has carried over to the USMNT. In September, Morris came off the bench and made an impact against Mexico, drawing a penalty kick in the 3-0 loss to El Tri, then he scored the equalizer against Uruguay in the other USMNT friendly in September.
Then came Friday, where Morris’ strengths as a winger were on full display before Gregg Berhalter removed him at halftime, with an eye toward Tuesday’s crucial Nations League match against Canada.
“It’s just about continuing to work with him. He’s a bright boy,” Berhalter said of Morris. “He has great work rate, great effort, and a real willingness to take concepts on. And we’ve just been working really hard with him on the positional aspect of the game. As he gets that down you can see how we can take advantage of his physicality in a good way.”
Morris has always been known for his considerable speed, but with his improved crossing and understanding of the demands of the position, he has developed into Berhalter’s top option on the right wing, ahead of the likes of Paul Arriola and Tyler Boyd.
In the process, Morris is developing into the type of wing threat who can make the USMNT attack more dangerous, and who can take advantage of opposing defenses that pay too much attention to Christian Pulisic when the Chelsea winger is deployed on the opposite flank.