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Sounders' Morris hopes comeback season still has more left

Canada midfielder Samuel Piette (6) tries to fend off U.S. midfielder Cristian Roldan (15) and forward Jordan Morris (11) during the first half of a CONCACAF Nations League soccer match Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Toronto. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press via AP)

By TIM BOOTH

AP Sports Writer

TUKWILA, Wash. (AP) The last couple of weeks have felt like a blur for Jordan Morris, even if they're filled with moments he'll likely always remember.

There were the three assists and one goal while playing for the United States in a win over Cuba. There was the disappointment of a 2-0 loss to Canada a few days later. That was followed up by Morris bagging his first career hat trick at the perfect time as the Seattle Sounders beat FC Dallas 4-3 to open the MLS Cup playoffs.

To cap it all off, Morris was named the MLS comeback player of the year Tuesday after missing all last season following a major knee injury.

"You never know what the knee is going to feel like or if you're going to come back being the same player. Obviously, those doubts start happening once in a while," Morris said. "To be kind of where I am now, and I was looking back talking with my family and my girlfriend about where we were a year ago, and to be here now is super special. So, again, grateful to be back out on the field."

The 24-year-old would seem to be in line for a little rest. But that won't come until after Wednesday night's Western Conference semifinal against Real Salt Lake. After that, Morris will either get five days off before facing either LAFC or the LA Galaxy in the conference finals, or an entire offseason.

The Sounders would like to see at least one more match on the schedule with the way Morris has been playing.

"He's a lot stronger, a lot fitter since his injury and he works hard and has a different perspective on life," teammate Cristan Roldan said. "Honestly as tough as it was for Jordan it was a blessing in disguise because he's been tremendous and has a great mentality going forward."

Morris finished with 28.23% of the vote from players, team staff and media to win the comeback player award. He beat out fellow finalists Mark-Anthony Kaye (24.5%) of Los Angeles FC and Kacper Przbylko (8.63%) of Philadelphia.

After a sluggish start, Morris was outstanding in helping Seattle finish second in the Western Conference in the regular season. He switched positions and is playing more on the wing, but still managed to find himself with numerous goal-scoring opportunities. He finished the regular season with 10 goals and added seven assists.

They're not overwhelming numbers. But asked to take on a new role, Morris thrived and found what he hopes is a long-term position after several years of getting moved all over the park.

"I think the biggest adjustment is it's a different type of fitness. You're constantly moving, you're up and back. As a forward you're sprinting and then recover slower sometimes," Morris said. "But as a wide mid you've got to get back. I think defensively my game has evolved a lot more this year, which I think a lot of it comes with that second half of the season when I could feel like I could play that position and get up and back and feel more physically fit in that sense."

Morris said playing for the U.S. during the Gold Cup this summer was a turning point. When he returned from that stint, Morris felt his fitness was where it needed to be and with it the confidence in his knee. Morris found that summer stint with the national team a far different experience than his first call up in March.

"I remember going into that first national team camp I got called into in March and just feeling really behind the pace, behind the speed of play," Morris said. "We were doing possession drills and I just didn't feel up, obviously that's a whole other step up, but I just didn't feel like myself. And coming into Gold Cup, (I) felt better and obviously after Gold Cup, started to feel really good with the Sounders. I think that was the turning point a little bit that I was back to myself."

Seattle's clash with RSL is one of two conference semifinals on Wednesday, with NYCFC hosting Toronto in the Eastern Conference. On Thursday, Atlanta United hosts Philadelphia followed by El Trafico in the battle for Los Angeles.

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Updated October 22, 2019

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