NOTE: This story was originally published last fall ahead of the United States-Czech Republic friendly when he received his first call-up. We updated it after his starring appearance against Mexico.
As national team managers often do in their first camp following a World Cup, Jurgen Klinsmann has chosen to take a closer look at a host of young players. Among that group are six players who have yet to see United States national team action. But even among that smaller group, Jordan Morris' name sticks out as a bit of a sore thumb.
Unlike the other five first-timers, Morris is still an amateur. The Stanford sophomore is the first college player to be invited to a national team camp since Chris Albright took part in a 1999 session. If Morris makes an appearance, he'd be the first collegian to play for the USMNT since Ante Razov in 1995, the year before MLS had officially kicked off.
While Morris is relatively well known among followers of the college and youth national team scenes, his inclusion in this camp still came as a bit of a shock. At 19 years old, Morris is not extraordinarily young, as three players in this camp are actually younger. But a lack of a professional contract has prompted lots of questions as to what Klinsmann may be seeing that is otherwise being missed.
He must have just fallen through the cracks, right?
Actually, no. Morris was a high school star and spent his senior year with the Seattle Sounders Academy, where he scored 27 goals in 28 USSDA matches. If he had wanted to, he probably could have signed with the Sounders right away.
So why didn't he?
Morris comes from a well-educated family -- his father is the Sounders' team doctor -- and attending Stanford was simply an opportunity too good to pass up. It's worth noting that fellow Sounders Academy alum and current Sounders rookie Aaron Kovar played two seasons at Stanford before going pro.
Did the Sounders miss their chance to sign him?
Probably not, but it's possible. The Sounders have reportedly told Morris there's a standing offer whenever he's ready. This call-up may has almost certainly earned him a few extra bucks, though. Morris has also repeatedly told inquiring press that he intends to play for the Sounders, with the only question being when.
How did he even get onto Klinsmann's radar?
Morris wasn't really part of the youth national team setup until the 2013 Toulon Tournament that basically served as a warmup to the U20 World Cup. Morris showed reasonably well, but actually didn't make the World Cup roster. Where he really seems to have grabbed Klinsmann's attention was in this summer's pre-World Cup training when Morris and his Stanford teammates trained against the USMNT.
What position does he play?
He's listed as a forward on the U.S. roster and has played mostly at forward for the Cardinal, but he's also a very capable wide midfielder. He's got good speed and size and his technical ability is better than you might expect from a player who has only been training at a high level for a few years. You'll notice that although he was playing as a forward against Mexico that most of his dangerous runs came from the flank. The kid has sneaky speed and is remarkably poised in front of goal for someone with his experience.
How long until we see him in Europe?
Whoa, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. Morris trained with Everton's academy a few months ago and managed to leave England without a contract offer. A call from Klinsmann shouldn't change his situation THAT much. But Morris' days of flying under the radar are probably over. The hype machine is probably about to get rolling.
Don't be shocked when its all said and done if @J_Klinsmann tells us that he "wishes" he would have given Morris more thought for Brazil.
— Taylor Twellman (@TaylorTwellman) September 2, 2014
OK, so when do we start talking about him being the next Freddy Adu?
Let's hope never. The good thing about Morris is that he's got a solid head on his shoulders and that's probably part of why Klinsmann felt comfortable calling him in. Assuming he signs his first pro deal with the Sounders, they can also afford to bring him along slowly (although at this point it looks more and more like he'll be able to contribute right away). The chances of him getting thrown to the wolves the way Adu did just aren't that high. He's only going to get onto the field when he's earned his way there.
What should our expectations be like?
Klinsmann clearly has plans for young Mr. Morris. Those surely include a spot on the 2016 Brazil Olympics at the very least, and when he's not with the senior national team he's tearing it up with the U23's. A spot on the 2015 Gold Cup doesn't even seem like that big of a stretch anymore but making the 2018 World Cup team is probably getting ahead of ourselves, and they'd hardly qualify as the boldest decisions of Klinsmann's tenure. At the very least, the chances of him staying in college seem to be diminishing further with each appearance and we can probably start counting down to him signing his first pro contract.