COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (AP) — Jordan Morris’ sensational rookie season was in jeopardy when he was sick to his stomach Friday. He’s feeling a lot better after his performance Sunday.
Morris scored in the 56th minute and the Seattle Sounders advanced to their first MLS Cup, beating the Colorado Rapids 1-0 on Sunday in the second leg of the Western Conference final.
Nelson Haedo Valdez set up the goal to help Seattle take the series 3-1 in aggregate scoring. The Sounders will play Toronto or Montreal on Dec. 10 for the league title.
Toronto hosts Montreal in the second leg of the Eastern final Wednesday night. The Impact won the first leg 3-2 in Montreal. Seattle will host the final if Montreal prevails, but will travel to Toronto if needed.
A win there will cap an improbable turnaround for Seattle, which started the year 6-12-2 under coach Sigi Schmid but went 8-2-1 after Brian Schmetzer was named interim head coach to get in the playoffs.
“It’s funny looking back. Everybody thought we were dead in the water and now we move on,” Morris said. “This team always believed we were good enough to make it and we proved a lot of people wrong. We’ve got one more game to go.”
Morris, who was named the MLS Rookie of the Year on Nov. 10 after scoring 12 goals, said his stomach was hurting Friday and Saturday but started to feel better Sunday morning when he woke up. He was good enough to deliver a clutch goal.
“He’s not only strong physically, he’s also strong mentally,” said Schmetzer, who had the interim tag removed Nov. 2. “He wasn’t feeling his best and there were times in the first half he didn’t look like the Jordan we all know and love, but in the one moment that it really counted he was mentally strong enough to score the goal we needed to push us through.”
The Sounders won the first leg of the series in Seattle 2-1 on Tuesday night and needed only a tie to advance. They got more than that with a big goal from Morris.
It was the Rapids’ first home loss of the season.
Colorado carried the play for most of the game but Seattle jumped on a great chance Valdez had the ball above the box and passed to Morris as he got behind a defender. Morris knocked the ball over goalkeeper Zac MacMath as he slid to try to disrupt the shot.
“Nelson got the ball 25 yards out, put the ball through and I kind of took a touch,” Morris said. “It went out wide a little bit and I saw the keeper come off his line so I tried to chip it over him and fortunately it went in.”
Morris got the shot off as he was sliding, and MacMath spiked his right leg as both players converged.
The Rapids needed a goal to get even in aggregate scoring and came out inspired from the start. Jermaine Jones had the first real chance on a header in the fifth minute that went wide.
He later knocked a pass from Shkelzen Gashi over the bar.
However, the best chance for the Rapids came in the 23rd minute. Forward Kevin Doyle had the ball and maneuvered by defender Roman Torres on the left side and had just goalkeeper Stefan Frei in his path. Instead of taking the shot to try to beat the charging Frei, he sent the ball to the front of the net as Sebastien Le Toux came down the middle, but the ball went through and Le Toux never got a shot.
“We had a couple of good looks on goal,” Colorado coach Pablo Mastroeni said. “Those go in and it’s a whole different game. I thought we were in control of the game, we did everything we set out to do and to get beat on a strange play, that’s football.”
NOTES: This was the third trip to the Western Conference finals in Seattle’s eight-year existence in the MLS. The Sounders lost to the LA Galaxy in 2012 and ’14. … Rapids captain Sam Cronin was suspended for the match due to an accumulation of yellow cards. Cronin received a yellow card in the first leg of the series Tuesday in Seattle. Micheal Azira got the start in Cronin’s place. … Torres received a yellow card in the 14th minute after hitting the ball as it was set up for a free kick for Colorado.