It’s nice to be wanted, usually. Sometimes, though, there is a great deal of pressure in being wanted.
For young American footballing phenom, Jordan Morris, being wanted means being in the middle of a tug-of-war between the Seattle Sounders and potentially Werder Bremen of Germany, and even more so, being caught between American supporters who want Jordan to sign with the Sounders and those wanting to make his professional debut abroad, in addition to tensions between MLS and Jurgen Klinsmann as to where Morris should sign.
Klinsmann has always been a proponent of his national team players featuring at the highest level possible in club competition, and has thus wanted his players to sign with European clubs. (It’s ironic that, in this cycle of the USMNT roster, few American players currently are playing important roles for top overseas clubs, mostly because of the desire of the aging American players to finish their careers at home. And both MLS and USSF publicly deny any tensions as to Morris’ future, which of course means that tensions do exist).
Jordan is a rarity — an amateur player who has been capped by the senior USMNT. Capped seven times. And he scored a goal against archrival Mexico.
Until quite recently, Jordan, a 5’11” forward, played the beautiful game for Stanford University, leading them to the NCAA Championship weeks ago. But the striker has decided to forego his senior season at Stanford and turn professional. It’s easy to understand his thinking — he is 21 years old, an age when many players are earning wages playing professionally, and frankly, he has done all he can at the American collegiate level. And he is currently trialing with Werder, and had a quality assist on Claudio Pizarro’s goal in a friendly with Inter Baku a few days back.
But with what club does he turn professional? THAT is the focus of the heated debate among American soccer fans.
MLS supporters, Sounders’ ownership and MLS commissioner Don Garber are quite certain that signing with the Seattle Sounders would be the absolutely right deal for Morris — the kid is a Seattle native, after all, his father is the Sounders’ team physician, and Morris has played at the amateur level during the summer for the Sounders’ U-23 side in the PDL. Seattle owns his MLS rights.
It would be a great story and boost for Morris to be one of the marquee players of the league that keeps improving in status every year. And the Seattle Sounders are a big brand. Although the official Seattle Sounders FC were born only eight years ago, the Sounders name has been around since the original NASL and a club carrying the Sounders’ brand has been alive all those years, playing in lesser leagues when the U.S. featured no first-division football between the death of the original NASL in 1984 and the birth of MLS in 1996.
After playing in the USL, the Sounders became an MLS expansion club and played its first official MLS match on March 19, 2009. They draw by far the largest crowds in MLS, have won won four Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups, have featured in CONCACAF’s Champions League competition and regularly contend for the MLS championship.
But then again, there is football overseas, and particularly with Werder Bremen. Experts such as Raphael Honigstein and former USMNT star Brian McBride, who played both in MLS and Germany before becoming captain of Fulham in the EPL, believe that Morris should sign with a European club in a top league. Werder Bremen feature an American international, Aron Jóhannsson, who signed last summer and was just getting acclimated to German football when he suffered an October injury that still has him sidelined. With Anthony Ujah, Fin Bartels and the ageless Pizarro making up their healthy strike force, Morris could find playing time with the club that needs a boost to climb up the table and avoid relegation.
Werder Bremen have taken a low-key approach to Morris’ trial. “We’re just getting to know him..” seems to characterize the north German side’s approach during his time training with the club. But as Matt Hermann, an experienced writer on German football, reasons in an article on American Soccer Now…
Morris and Werder are a match made in heaven, and as long as he keeps on playing like he has been on his current training stint he should get games right away.
Hermann continues that Morris would benefit not only from the experience of Pizarro, the Bundesliga’s all-time leading foreign goal-scorer known for his class, but also cites that Ujah has taken a shine to the American. His USMNT teammate, Jóhannsson, is already in the squad. Moreover, though Werder Bremen have been down in recent years, they have been a frequent player in European tournaments as well as being four-time Bundesliga champions and winners of six German Cups. Hardly a little team.
And Hermann cites the influence of Coach Victor Skrypnyk, who also played for Die Grün-Weißenin the late ’90s into the new century. Before stepping up to the senior squad coaching position at Werder, Skrypnyk coached the youth sides and is a big believer in winning with young players. In essence, Morris would have a great chance to get minutes at Werder against some of the best clubs in the world, while learning from a great like Pizarro would be ideal, also.
Ultimately, the decision is for Morris should Werder Bremen offer a contract. And of course there may be other European clubs making offers, too. And it’s good to recall, that it is HIS life and HIS decision, not ours, no matter what course we think he should take. But one hopes, that at the age of 21, he reaches out and grabs his chance at European football, a chance for a higher level of football, despite the MLS’ improvement.
And without a doubt, Werder Bremen, Fox Sports and the Bundesliga would be very happy with a talented American player in Germany to market, too.
Photo courtesy of Fox Sports