• Jordan Morris earned his first USA cap before turning professional
  • His first Stars and Stripes’ goal was in a friendly win over Mexico in 2015
  • USA face Trinidad and Tobago and Mexico this week in World Cup qualifying

For a first year in professional football, Jordan Morris could not have asked for more. The USA striker, who earned his first senior international cap in November 2014 while still playing at American college level with Stanford University, was named Major League Soccer’s (MLS) Rookie of the Year for 2016 after helping his hometown club Seattle Sounders to their first-ever MLS Cup title.

While Seattle’s success in winning the MLS championship came as a surprise after the club’s slow start to last season’s campaign, the 22-year-old’s contributions to that triumph were more the opposite, as Morris came into the league with plenty of expectation after showing his burgeoning potential with the Stars and Stripes.

While his stock continues to rise in Seattle, Morris’s international aspirations were given a clean slate to work from after USA replaced coach Jurgen Klinsmann with the familiar face of Bruce Arena last November. It meant Morris and his American team-mates faced the task of impressing the 65-year-old when 2017 began. “Bruce has come in and done a great job, and really established an identity that he wants to see for the team,” the striker explained in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. “I think the guys have really got behind it, so it’s good when you’re moving in the same direction and on the same page. I think he’s done a really good job with that.”

Arena’s return to the role paid early dividends in late March, as USA put a slow start to the Hexagonal stage of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ behind them with two important results - a 6-0 thumping of Honduras in San Jose, and a 1-1 draw away to Panama. “It was a good couple of results against some good teams and we know these games are tough as well,” the striker said. “I know the guys are excited to get out there and work, try and turn things around, and qualify for the World Cup.”

Big games ahead
Sitting one point behind the automatic qualification spots in the Hexagonal after four matches, USA need results in their next two qualifiers. On Thursday, they host Trinidad and Tobago in Commerce City, Colorado, before a huge clash with arch-rivals Mexico at the Estadio Azteca on Sunday. The importance of these matches is not lost on Morris. “In the Hex, it’s important to try and win all your games at home, so the first one is obviously a big one to try and get three points,” he said.

Should Arena give him the nod to face Mexico in what is sure to be a highly-charged atmosphere at the Azteca, Morris will have the fond memory of scoring his first senior international goal to motivate him. Still a college player in April 2015, he scored the winner in a 2-0 friendly victory over El Tri in San Antonio, Texas.

The goalscorer is relishing the opportunity of playing again in the Azteca after first experiencing the colossal venue in last season’s CONCACAF Champions League. “Going down to Mexico, I’ve never played there with the national team, but I know how tough it is to go there and play in that atmosphere, so getting out of there with any type of result would be big,” he said. “I played there last year with the Sounders, and even though it wasn’t quite full, it’s an amazing stadium and definitely a tough atmosphere to play in. I know the atmosphere when the US gets there will be amazing because of the rivalry. Hopefully, it will be a pretty cool experience.”

Thoughts of playing in Russia for his country next year are ones that Morris admits to having, but the forward knows the journey to make that a reality is far from completed. “Thinking about it a little bit, it’s a long way off but definitely a goal of mine, which is pretty exciting,” he said. “I’ve just got to keep working hard.”