Story & Photos by Chris Coulter, SoundersPhotos.com
For anyone who has seen Sean Morris play the game of soccer, they likely remember him. For those that see him play for the first time, they quickly take notice of this wiry kid that pin balls all over the field and covers every inch of the field. Sean is a high energy, highly motivated individual. He’s a guy with a perpetual positive attitude and the epitome of someone that leads by example in order to raise the level of play of those around him. It doesn’t hurt that he has a great mind for the game and is, of sorts, an on the field coach--ushering players into position and barking orders. While these are all great attributes in a player, it’s Sean’s work ethic and fitness level that stands out above all else.
Sean Morris grew up in Bothell, WA, the youngest of 3 children and has been playing soccer most of his life.
"I’ve pretty much played as long as I can recall. I probably started at around 3; once I was really capable of running," said Morris. "My brother is 4 years older and my sister is 2 years older we were always playing. It was easy for me because I loved to do it. We were also fortunate enough to have a field behind our house. All the time my dad, my brother and I would go and kick the ball around. It was just easy and it was fun. That’s the thing, it was always just fun, it was something you did with the family."
Sean’s work rate and competitive nature is apparent to anyone that watches him play the game. It’s fair to say that these traits were instilled at an early age and were refined throughout this childhood.
"It was always competitive in my house. My brother is the definition of a competitor. He doesn’t shy away from battles or challenges. He’s about the same size as me and he was always flying into stuff. For me it sort of became a test of survival, at times. He didn’t like to lose and especially to me, because I was younger. It was competitive in that sense because you always want to beat your older brother."
"Pretty much as long as I can remember we were always playing against each other. We would play games in the house and we’d be breaking lamps and all that stuff kids do. As long as I can remember that’s the way it was. I think that probably helped me more than it helped him just because he was the older one. I was benefitting from playing against an older player. For a lot of guys when they get to high school that’s the first time they play against older kids. For me, I had been playing against my brother and his club team friends. In a way, it sort of became an easy transition for me."
There was a time in his life where his desire, passion and love for the game were not enough, and he spent close to a two years sitting on the bench at his club team. For a guy that thrived on competition and had developed an intense mental toughness, he realized he needed to make a change and challenge himself.
"I was 13-14, just before high school and I decided to make the switch to Emerald City FC and play for Brian Schmetzer. That’s sort of how I got my history with Brian. That actually turned out to be a really-really good decision because I had to battle my way onto a new team. I think I timed things perfectly because that’s a great time for Brian to take over your career at that freshman in high school stage. That was a really defining time for me. It really turned out to be a blessing because I had to fight for a spot. I remember sitting down with Brian and asking him what I needed to do. He then gave me all his advice on what I needed to do to be successful as a youth player and then what I needed to do to take my game to the next level. I set out my plan and I was going to do exactly what he told me to do. Fortunately for me, Brian is a pretty smart guy and things worked out for me."
It is quite evident that the three and a half years Sean played for Brian Schmetzer was a turning point in his development. Playing for Brian Schmetzer, he’s not only about making kids better players, but better people and using the game as tool for success in life.
"With Brian you felt that he wanted the best for you. He wanted win but he wanted it to be for your benefit. He’s a huge part of keeping me going. He’s a great guy to have in your life. He’s just a great person," Morris said.
At Bishop Blanchet High School in Seattle, Sean became a two sport star, where he captained both the cross-country and soccer teams. Morris’ success wasn’t limited to the field. He was also a three time scholar athlete. Soccer had always been Sean’s passion and from an early age he had big dreams.
"I think I’ve been telling people that I want to play pro since I was about six. Back then I had those huge aspirations that I was going to move to Europe and play once I turned 18. It was always a real realistic belief of mine. You go to high school and then college and then pro. I knew the steps I had to take and knew I had to perform at each level."
Running cross-country in high school almost materialized out of nowhere. Sean has always prided himself on fitness and been a natural runner.
"I’ve always been naturally good at running. When I was in 4th grade I ran the fastest mile in the school and our school went all the way up to the 8th grade. To this day I think I hold the school record for fastest mile which is 5:20. I’ve always just been better at it than everybody else."
Once in high school, Sean’s fitness and proclivity for running was noticed by many.
"It’s kind of a funny story how I got into cross country; in freshman PE, we would always run Green Lake and I was always winning. Our PE coach would track us and he’d drive out to a check-point and he’d wait and make sure he saw everyone go by and then he’d drive back. By the time he’d get back, I was already done. He thought I was cheating. So he literally followed me all the way around and realized I wasn’t cheating. He then called the cross-country coach. The summer between my freshman and sophomore year, the cross-country coach probably called me every single day asking me to come out and try it. I was always a soccer guy but I gave it a try and was pretty successful at it. Our team won a state title and I was in the top 15 in the state my first year and the next two years I was in the top 10 in state in 5Ks."
At Seattle University, Morris played in 66 matches and was in the starting lineup for 61 of those matches. His junior year with the Redhawks was a breakout season and he began receiving attention from several MLS clubs.
"I actually got a call from New England (Revolution) after we played Tulsa. It was one of the first games of the season and they were ranked 11th or 12th in the country at the time. I played the absolute single greatest game of my life! It was one of those days where I couldn’t do anything wrong. After that I began hearing about (MLS) teams calling and asking about me. I was hearing some really-really good things. That’s when things started becoming a reality. It was no longer me just thinking about it, it was something that I can do, and it’s reality."
While Sean enjoyed individual success, his Seattle University team struggled and was in a period of transition. With this in mind, Sean struggled with decision on whether or not he should go pro and capitalize on his success and new found attention from professional franchises. Sean sought the advice of a trusted advisor, Darren Sawatzky.
"I talked to Darren about whether I should go or not and he told me you’re good but you’re not ready. He said to stay another year. It was the right decision. It was tough because I wanted to hear that yeah, you’re ready. At that time, I had been invited to train with the Sounders regularly and I felt good and felt like I could play with them at that level."
Sean took Sawatzky’s advice and stayed in college for his senior year. Things worked out and in January of 2011, Sean became the first Seattle University soccer player to be drafted by Major League Soccer. It was quite the moment, one of those occasions that one always remembers in detail.
"When I got drafted I actually was about to head out the door to go and train with some buddies and I heard my phone go off and it was a text. I remember having to sit down and read it and re-read it over and over again. I must have read it 30 or 40 times after I got it. I was just sitting on my bead and staring at my phone. I threw open my computer to check (on the Internet) and make sure, and yep, there was my name! It was a really special moment for me."
As excited as Sean was to have been drafted, he carried on with the same mentality and work ethic that he always had. He didn’t stop to celebrate, as many people in the same position may have done. Just as he had planned prior to being notified he had been drafted, he went and trained with his buddies.
Sean recalled some of the day’s events, "On my way to training I texted my family members and told them to check out this website. I didn’t tell them what happened but I just sent them the link. I got a call from my mom who works at a school and she was in with her class at the time and I just hear this big scream of congratulations from the class and she started crying in the class. It was a pretty cool day. I then went to training and I didn’t tell any of the guys about it. After training one of the guys was on his phone and was like hey! Did you know you got drafted? The next day I reported to camp."
Sean’s preseason camp with the Seattle Sounders had its ups and downs; he appeared in 4 preseason games and tallied 1 assist. The Sounders had seen him play a lot over the past few years, knew his game and knew what he was capable of doing.
"I think I made some mistakes and tried to do too much and put too much pressure on myself. I sort of tried to change my game and do too much, and that worked against me. I made some mistakes I don’t normally make."
The Sounders had signed Swedish midfielder Erik Friberg in the offseason and had also drafted Servando Carrasco. Both players are midfielders, just as Sean. Sean found himself to be the odd-man out and was released.
"It was a fun experience and they told me that it wasn’t a closed door and they wanted me to get some more experience and then look at me in the future. There are no regrets. It was a fun experience and not a lot of people have that chance," Morris said of his experience with the Sounders.
After being released by the Sounders in preseason, Sean had trials with the Montreal Impact and Minnesota Stars of NASL, where he was offered a contract. He ultimately declined the offer with Minnesota and instead played the 2011 PDL season with Portland Timbers U-23 team where he appeared in 16 games and registered 3 assists.
In March of 2012, Sean showcased his talents at an open tryout for newly formed Sounders U-23 PDL side and has since signed with the team. In addition to signing with the U-23 side, he has been called into a couple of MLS reserve league games for the Seattle Sounders FC, further testament to his continued hard work, positive attitude and professionalism.
A player of Sean’s ability, no doubt, had a few options but he chose to stay local and that decision was made easier because of the strong relationships Sean and the Sounders’ organization have formed with one another.
Sean Morris said, "Darren is a major reason why I’m here. He knows what I want to do. I want to play for Darren. I’ve known him for a number of years I really like him a lot. This organization has treated me well over the last few years. The Sounders have been good to me. They still give me opportunities and looks and I hope that I might still battle my way into that first team. I’m not going to give up on that! At the very least this is going to be an enjoyable summer to play and potentially be a stepping stone to something bigger."