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Jordan Morris

Jordan Morris will face more pressure in Seattle than at Bremen

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Jordan Morris, a.k.a. the newest chase rabbit in American soccer’s perpetual “next big thing” pursuit, has already established himself as a unique figure in the domestic game. He was a college kid who stamped a mark on the national team; Morris had another collegiate season at Stanford in him when he debuted (and scored!) at full international level against Mexico last spring in Texas.

Some of the booming voices in American soccer have pointed out Morris’ incredible position of leverage in the shark tank of current, professional negotiations. Here is what ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman just told Extra Time Radio:

“Jurgen Klinsmann is right in one sense on this: Jordan Morris, since the inception of Major League Soccer, is the only player to come out of college, to negotiate a contract and have the leverage of (being) a full national team player. Even Landon Donovan did not have that.”

So Morris already holds some unusual, if not unique positions, in domestic soccer. The young man is already busting up molds and models.

And in this flare-up of Jordan Morris frenzy, I see one more fascinating angle, one less discussed so far as he weighs his options, primarily between Germany’s Werder Bremen and the Seattle Sounders:

Klinsmann wants players to test themselves overseas, as we know. Of course, it’s not the “overseas” part, per se, that Klinsmann covets for America’s best and brightest; it’s the environment. Specifically, it’s the cultural immersion and day-to-day pressure that squeezes the very best from athletes. It’s Klinsmann’s beloved “bakery theory.”

It goes like this: When players in Germany or elsewhere in Europe lose on the weekend, they can barely go enjoy a cup of strong European coffee or stop at the local bakery for scones or brotchen or whatever because everyone in town is pissed off at them. Fold in the extraordinary layers of competition for playing time and that creates a zippy environment, one that ultimately pounds out the best soccer players, or so the theory goes.

SEE MORE: Morris saga highlights split between MLS and what’s best for USMNT.

But what if the pressure is actually greater elsewhere? What if the bigger, badder burden of expectation lies in – Egad! Say it ain’t so! – Major League Soccer?

We may have reached that previously unreached point with Morris. We may have ventured into this very odd place where, in this particular case, Morris will have feel more pressure in MLS as opposed to performing overseas. Klinsmann may be loath to admit as much, but you can make a decent case that the balance tips that way here. Not across the board, of course, but in this case.

Had he gone to Werder Bremen (which looks increasingly unlikely, according to the latest reports), he would toil away rather anonymously while chasing playing time with a bunch of other young hopefuls. In Germany, he is just another big, strong kid making his case for a mid-level team.

But a slightly heavier burden falls if he signs with the Sounders, where Morris’s deal with Seattle will easily eclipse all previous MLS contracts for homegrown players, according to Seattle manager Sigi Schmid and general manager Garth Lagerwey. The pressure starts and builds from there.

Generally speaking, we would probably agree that pressure to win in MLS is jayvee-level compared to expectations in Germany. See Klinsmann’s “bakery theory,” above. Or just think about the build-up of decades upon decades of pressure in England, Germany, Italy, Spain, etc.

On the other hand, there are a couple of MLS outposts where hope and expectancy weigh heavy. Seattle, of course, with its billowing and boisterous fan base, is one of them. The Sounders organization has achieved so, so much since joining MLS in 2009. (It’s a history rich club that achieved amply prior to MLS days, too, of course.) But the granddaddy of MLS spoils, the MLS Cup, has yet to find its way into CenturyLink Field. The club has yet to appear as a finalist even, and the squeeze to get there approaches crush depth.

As if the two-ton pressure wasn’t clunky enough already, now bitter rival Portland has an MLS Cup crown. Talk about super-sizing the tension!

So, clearly, Morris would tote his share of the load where club hope and promise mount for Sounders FC.

SEE MORE: Morris’s decision won’t hurt the USMNT.

Then comes the competition aspect. At CenturyLink, Morris will presumably compete for front-line spots with Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins and Nelson Valdez. If you say, “Schmid will be under pressure to play the big, homegrown signing,” well, you might be correct. But every manager dwells under constant pressure to play the high earning DPs as well; Dempsey, Martins and Valdez are all DPs. So there’s that.

There is plenty of competition for minutes. Being no expert on Werder Bremen’s roster and current player form, I cannot establish a clear “more” or “less” level here compared to Seattle. But we can all reasonably agree that minutes for Morris in MLS aren’t going to be handed to him; he’ll earn his time through effort, tactical comprehensive and ultimate production … or he’ll sit.

Finally, throw in the burden of being a “first.” In some ways, Morris is carrying the pride of the college game. If he fails, he adds more weight to the argument against the college game as a developmental mechanism for Major League Soccer. Plus, MLS managers and technical directors might add a layer of reluctance when the next opportunity arises to offer a big-boy level contract to a lesser tested homegrown kid.

If there’s more pressure at Werder Bremen, it’ll be measured in ounces more than pounds. The kid’s got a lot going for him, but there’s already a lot expected of him, regardless of where he lands.

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. VicBklyn

    January 23, 2016 at 11:40 pm

    Relegation, relegation. Having the opportunity to audition for Europe is a gift. He can add a relegation clause in his contract. WB are at the bottom but also 15 pts off of 4th place with a half season to go. T. Twellman was one of the commentators who said getting out of MLS is very difficult. Yedlin is one player in how long that has transferred to Europe. Take the chance of playing at the highest level. Playing against a Bundesliga defense or MLS, which one gets you more ready and closer to Champions League.
    Forward wise WB also needs him more than Settle, I mean Seattle.

  2. Joamiq

    January 22, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    Everyone pushing the “more pressure in Seattle” view seems to conveniently leave out the fact that Werder aimed to sign Morris to help them avoid relegation. They need goals to stay in the Bundesliga and they saw Morris as part of the solution. That kind of pressure is incomparable.

    I’m not saying this is a bad move for him, but let’s at least be honest about all the factors in play.

    • Heimdall

      January 23, 2016 at 6:28 pm

      That’s fine and dandy, but maybe he didn’t want to deal with a possible relegation pay cut and the WB optimal stay in teh Bundesliga money wasn’t significantly more. He would have been the 3rd forward on either team from an optimistic angle excluding injury.

  3. Jasinho

    January 21, 2016 at 4:45 am

    (rolls eyes)

    You forgot something, Werder Bremen is fighting relegation in the Bundesliga.

  4. VicBklyn

    January 20, 2016 at 8:47 pm

    Pressure but less competition. Nothing we have in the US will match the Champions League or Europa level of competition. This is not as simple as MLS vs. 1 of the European league’s. Every top country has internationals playing in the top European competition which is probably the best competition in the world. It’s the top internationals gathered on the best teams.

    • DysClaimer

      January 21, 2016 at 11:58 am

      If he was turning down Bayern I’d agree with you. But Werder Bremen is not going to Champions League or Europa League, and will be lucky to even be in the Bundesliga next year. He’s not going to get that experience playing for them.

      From a USMNT perspective, he may well be better off playing for Seattle for a 2 or 3 years and then moving to Europe when he’s 23 or 24. If he goes to Europe now and ends up on the bench he’s not going to develop much at all.

      • VicBklyn

        January 21, 2016 at 4:07 pm

        If it wasn’t for the way MLS contracts are structured, maybe? Every player and commentator has complained how hard it is to leave MLS. It is know to be harder than leaving Mexico’s la liga.
        WB being a lower team gives him more of a chance to get playing time. He would of been playing against top defenses getting exposure to all of Europe. Beating an MLS defense will not get him that exposure. The exposure is still there. WB was just competing in Europe and could be in a couple of years.

        • Heimdall

          January 21, 2016 at 5:29 pm

          This isn’t the MLS that held Shalrie and Taylor T to their contracts and kept them here and away from Europe because they were too important and didn’t even give them a pay bump. If they played now, they would get better second contracts like large Omar or Besler and Zusi and be happier.

          If Morris develops as hoped and it is time for him to move on, I’m sure the Sounders will treat his case like they did with Yedlin, who left the team on good terms. Morris won’t have to play through his contract to leave if he wants to.

      • Sgc

        January 23, 2016 at 10:24 pm

        Right, that’s one half of it, and the other half is that Seattle, like most of the DP-loaded teams of MLS, spends all of its money on a few players, mostly on the offensive half. It would not surprise me if their top 3 attacking players (Dempsey/Martins/Valdez) were as good as Bremen’s (Ujah/Pizarro/Johannsen).

    • Steve Davis

      January 21, 2016 at 1:59 pm

      You have a bit of a point … but it has nothing to do with UCL or even Europa. Because Werder Bremen isn’t within sniffing distance of either. Now, they certainly MAY be in a relegation dogfight.And the pressure is enormous in one of those. But as I said in the story, Seattle is a place where there is plenty of pressure to win.

      • RM

        January 21, 2016 at 11:13 pm

        The pressure is on the Sounders, as it is every year. Nobody is heaping all those expectations on a college kid just because he has one goal and seven caps. Fans won’t turn on him if the big-contract kid doesn’t light it up right out of the gate. He;s under more scrutiny than the typical HG signing, yes, but the returning players are required to produce, not him.

    • Catamount

      January 26, 2016 at 3:21 pm

      Let’s see Morris will be competing with Martins, Dempsey and Valedez for playing time. I don’t think WB can do better than that.

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