SEATTLE — By his own admission, Jordan Morris didn’t know if he would have scored that kind of a goal early in the season.
All that mattered to the Seattle Sounders; rookie forward is he scored one on Saturday afternoon.
Morris tallied in the 81st minute, and the Sounders beat the Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 to keep their MLS playoff hopes alive.
Nicolas Lodeiro set up the goal by floating a target ball into the penalty area toward the top of goalkeeper David Ousted’s 6-yard box. Morris ran onto it through traffic and sent a diving header into the net.
“That’s a good goal by any standard, and it’s also a brave goal because Jordan sticking his head in there is not easy,” Sounders interim head coach Brian Schmetzer said. “But he does that and gets a goal, and that’s his reward.”
Morris said his ability -and willingness – to do something like that is simply the result of picking up more experience.
“I’m definitely growing in confidence as the season has gone on,” said Morris, who now has a team-leading 10 goals. “Adding Nico in there, he plays in those great balls.”
Vancouver (9-14-7), also trying to stay in the playoff picture, has just two wins in its last 11 games.
“This one hurts a little bit more than the others because I don’t think we got what we deserved today,” Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson said. “Performance-wise, we were spot on. We mixed it with a very good team; we went toe-to-toe. We didn’t want to tie the game, we wanted to win the game. Sometimes when you gamble, you give up things at the other end.”
Up to the time of Morris’ goal, the Sounders (10-13-5), who won for the first time since Aug. 21 and snapped a three-game winless streak, had the clear run of play. But they had nothing to show for it.
“As a forward, you feel responsible that it’s your job to put the ball in the back of the net,” Morris said. “You just have to keep pushing, keep going, and feel confident that your chance will come.”
Lodeiro, the Uruguayan international who joined the Sounders at the end of July and has played every minute of the eight games since then, has factored into the scoring into the last seven of those games. He has seven assists, along with three goals.
“We worked all week long to try to create chances, or create enough quality chances to hit at least one,” Schmetzer said. “It’s a testament to that group of guys that they created enough chances and got one.”
Goalkeeper Stefan Frei had his sixth shutout of the season, and came up big twice during the first half to preserve it.
In the fifth minute, he knocked away a point-blank, 12-yard shot by Erik Hurtado.
Then in the 14th minute, a ball was lofted high into the middle of the Seattle penalty area, with Frei playing way off his line. Hurtado got behind him, but Frei quickly turned around, leaped, and reached over from Hurtado’s right to slap the ball out of his reach and away from the wide-open net.
“I think I was fortunate to be able to kind of make him take a high touch,” Frei said. “At that point, it’s just a scramble to try to come back. I’m fortunate he didn’t try to box me out. Maybe he forgot about me a little bit and gave me a chance to come back.
Frei, who was not credited with a save on any of Vancouver’s eight shots, got some help from the left goalpost in the 69th minute when Hurtado’s 15-yard attempt from the far side slammed off it.