CARSON, Calif. — American soccer fans love a debate, but the latest subject of discussion won’t be drawn into either side of the argument he sparked. After scoring against Mexico in his first international start for the United States, Jordan Morris became fodder for halftime segments on both ESPN and Fox’s Sunday MLS broadcasts.
The 20-year-old Stanford sophomore gets another shot against El Tri on Wednesday with the U.S. Under-23 team. He said before training on Tuesday that he’s aware of the discussion, postulating what it means for the state of U.S. Soccer when a college player gets continual chances with Jurgen Klinsmann’s team, but he wants to remain neutral.
“I see it on social media a little bit, but I try not to pay too much attention to that [and] just try to focus on this game coming up and continue to just grow as a player,” he told SI.com. “I think if you get caught up in that too much, it’s kind of a lot. I’ve noticed it a little bit, but I just try to stay out of that.”
Morris created the discussion, with an assist from Klinsmann for starting him in a 2-0 win in San Antonio, by scoring the opening goal for the U.S. against its fiercest rival. His social media following more than quadrupled on Twitter in the aftermath.
“Everyone’s been super supportive, from my teammates there to my family to my friends, and a lot of people I haven’t talked to for a while reached out to me,” Morris said. “It was awesome to see that, and I’m just super thankful for that.”
At one point during training on Monday, Morris ran to the bench to check his blood sugar. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 9, he said he was a little nervous about keeping it in check before playing Mexico.
“I check it before warm-up and after warm-up, just to make sure it’s good for the session. Obviously, if I feel anything, I go off and check it. Just during halftime of games is when I check it,” he said. “I think, honestly, the adrenaline kind of caused it to get out of whack a little bit because it was up and down before the game, but at halftime, it was all good.”
At a time when being a soft-spoken college kid has never been more difficult, the Mercer Island, Washington, native sees his diabetes and having to go back to class as ways of keeping him grounded in the face of his newfound fame.
“I wasn’t back [at school] for too long—just a couple days—but I think, actually, sometimes that’s a good kind of distraction,” he said. “It takes your mind off things, and I’m real focused on my education and excited to continue to learn at Stanford.”
It’s comments such as those that created the discussion he’s keen to avoid. After earning Klinsmann’s attention for his standout performance in a closed-door game for Stanford against the U.S. in its pre-World Cup camp on his home campus last summer, Morris earned his first senior call-up for the U.S.’s first friendly after the tournament against the Czech Republic.
Professional contract offers came in from the Seattle Sounders, the team that owns his Homegrown Player rights and where his father, Michael, is the team doctor, but Morris turned them down and reaffirmed his commitment to Stanford.
He told SI.com in January that his plan is to play at least his junior season for the Cardinal. Even now, his intentions remain the same.
“Still the same plan as always. I’m really committed to my team there and [to] continue my education there,” he said. “I’m just really loving it at Stanford right now, and I think it’s a great experience that I’ll never get back if I leave. So I’m just going through next season and just seeing where we go from there.”