Jennifer Buchanan/Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
After little doubt about who should win the award, Jordan Morris was named the MLS Rookie of the Year by the league on Thursday.
Morris, who joined the Seattle Sounders this year as a Homegrown Player signing, finished the regular season with 12 goals and four assists, plus an assist so far in the postseason. Six of his goals were game-winners, a record for an MLS rookie. His 12 goals also put him in a tie for the most scored by any American in MLS this year.
Morris, 21, passed on interest from Werder Bremen in Germany, an option that U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann helped orchestrate, to instead play in MLS this year. His decision drew scrutiny from those who felt the Bundesliga would be a better environment for the USMNT prospect’s development, but the choice paid off.
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Under the pressure of high expectations, Morris showed remarkable improvement over the course of his rookie season, going from a somewhat one-dimensional speedster who relied on athleticism to a well-rounded striker who found more ways to contribute. His off-the-ball movement got smarter, his hold-up play more reliable and his finishing improved.
In a Sounders team of depleted talent with Clint Dempsey taking an absence due to a heart issue and Nelson Valdez dealing with a severe scoring drought, Morris was given far more responsibility than perhaps a rookie should. But he showed an earnest commitment in stepping up, improving his skillset and being a leader on his team. He appeared in every single Sounders game this season.
Morris led in all three of the voting categories for the award among players, club executives and media members, taking an average of 45 percent of the vote. Kegan Rosenberry, defender for the Philadelphia Union, came in second. New York City FC winger Jack Harrison came in third.