On Wednesday, Jordan Morris got the news that every professional soccer player dreams of with the announcement that he has made the final 26-man roster for the U.S. Men’s National Team ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
For Morris, it’s a moment that was far from a given.
The Seattle Sounders homegrown standout is just one year removed from returning from the second torn ACL of his career, which was suffered while on loan in the English Championship with Swansea City, sidelining him for almost the entire 2021 campaign. During a lengthy and rigorous rehab process, the USMNT was at the forefront of his mind, with the knowledge that a strong return to the field with Seattle could help propel him back in the mix at the international level and potentially for a World Cup spot.
“The thing that drove me was that qualifying was going on during that time but I knew the World Cup was going to be at the end of the following year,” Morris told SoundersFC.com. “So much of what drove me to work hard and get back on the field as strong as possible – and as soon as possible – was to try to get back with the group and be part of the national team heading to the World Cup because that’s been my goal since I was little kid.
“I remember one of my first thoughts when I got hurt was: I have enough time to get back in with the group and hopefully be part of the group going to Qatar. I think it really pushed me. It helped me with my rehab to know that was on the horizon and helped me get back stronger.”
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Fast-forward to Wednesday, and all that work has officially come full circle. When the USMNT departs for Qatar, Morris will be there, representing his country at the world’s biggest sporting event.
The road back was filled with more trials than he could have imagined back when he got his first senior cap as a wide-eyed student at Stanford University in 2014, in awe of sharing a locker room with childhood idols like Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey. With the reality that he’s now going to be playing on the same stage that made those players legends, Morris described the feeling as surreal.
“That’s been my goal since I was a little kid: to play in a World Cup,” Morris said. “I used to go in the back yard with my brother and we would pretend we were national team players playing in the World Cup. I think every little kid playing soccer grows up wanting to play in the World Cup someday. The fact that it’s here and to be part of that team would just be absolutely incredible and a dream come true.”
The milestone arrives after a comeback campaign with Seattle that saw Morris return from the injury to record seven goals and four assists in 27 MLS games, also helping the club to its historic Concacaf Champions League title, where he was named to the tournament’s Best XI.
A Mercer Island native with well-documented hometown roots, Morris said the support he received in Seattle, both from the Sounders and his inner circle, were factors that aided a successful return to the field.
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“It’s been incredible,” he said. “I think having the confidence of playing in your hometown, playing in front of your friends and family, having your friends and family around and having that support group, especially going through a couple of big injuries and the ups and downs of a career. Having that support group, having that net around you has been really important for myself.
“But just the dream of getting to play and represent my hometown has been incredible. It’s something I never take for granted whenever I step on the field and it’s just a huge honor.”
With his roster spot now secure, the focus will soon turn to the World Cup itself, where the Yanks will get to test themselves against some of the world’s top players, starting in the group stage where the US was drawn with Wales, England and Iran in Group B.
For his part, Morris said he plans on soaking in every moment of an opportunity that he didn’t know he’d ever have again.
“It would mean everything. I think it would make all the hard work, all the sacrifices I put in throughout my career, all the recovery from my injuries, all the things that you had to miss out on while you were grinding to get better, it would make all that worth it,” Morris said.
“And just the chance represent your country on a stage like that, represent your family and everyone that has supported you, I think those would be thoughts going through my head at that time. Every time when I’m playing a national team game, it’s so special because it means so much. It’s something that I don’t take for granted. I remember listening [to the anthem] the first time before my first cap and just that feeling that I had, I think it would be even bigger in a moment like that.