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(AP) - In the moments when Jordan Morris would recoil, when he tried to isolate himself from friends, family, anything to do with soccer while dealing with a potentially career-altering knee injury, Cristian Roldan knew there was always a way to still engage his friend no matter how down Morris was about his situation.
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"We would play a lot of video games, distract him from everything else. Not even bring up soccer," Roldan said.
Twelve months after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee, nearly 18 months since he last played a full 90 minutes for either club or country, Morris has snapped out of his funk. He's back on the field trying to prove his run of bad injury luck was just a fluke and rediscover his spot as part of America's soccer future.
He'll return to MLS regular-season duty Saturday night when the Seattle Sounders host FC Cincinnati, which joins the MLS as the league's 24th team. Barring an unexpected change, it'll be his first match started for the club since Feb. 22, 2018. Between that night in Honduras and now, Morris went from being depressed and reclusive, to determined and defiant in not letting his first major injury derail a promising career.
But in rediscovering his resolution, Morris also endured dark moments, when friends like Roldan had to use video games and random dinners to snap Morris out of his funk.
"To be completely honest, it was really hard. I spent a lot of time by myself at first and I could see in my relationships people were worried about me a little bit just because I was spending a lot of time alone. I needed that time," Morris said inside the Sounders training facility.
It's been a long time since anyone has seen Morris in a non-exhibition playing a full match completely healthy. There was a hamstring injury in the fall of 2017 that cost Morris most of the MLS playoffs outside of two short substitute appearances, and more importantly kept him out of World Cup qualifiers that ultimately kept the U.S. out of Russia.
Morris' return also comes with positional stability he rarely had in the first few seasons of his career with Seattle. There may be times where Morris again plays at the top of Seattle's attack, but the addition of Raul Ruidiaz last year provides the Sounders the opportunity to slide Morris out to the wing as part of a dangerous three-man attacking midfield along with Nicolas Lodeiro and Victor Rodriguez.
"Thankfully in my career before I didn't have a ton of injuries these were my first really big ones and I just missed it," Morris said. "I missed it a lot. It really felt like forever and it's just amazing to be back."
For FC Cincinnati, it feels amazing just to have a team. Forward Fanendo Adi, midfielder Fatai Alashe and defender Kendall Waston are expected to lead the expansion club, which is coming off a regular-season title in the USL under coach Alan Koch.
The team signed Adi as a designated player a month after MLS awarded Cincinnati the franchise. Adi had three goals in 11 matches with the USL team last season.
Updated March 1, 2019