Corey Baird received the ball the left side of the field, his red and black-striped kit soaked through by the rain that began falling on 2015 NCAA title game before the first whistle.
Baird’s pass split two Clemson defenders to Jordan Morris’ feet. Morris turned, with orange jerseys on either side of him and the goalkeeper bolting toward him, and placed a shot in the far corner of the net.
“He was so much fun to play with” Morris said of Baird, “because his vision, and his creativity, and his skill on the ball is pretty special. So for a forward who’s getting in front of goal or making runs in behind — which is what I like to do — he was able to find me so many times.”
Baird had two assists in Stanford’s 4-0 championship victory, Morris’ last college match. Both Morris and Baird — two years later than Morriss — went on to sign as homegrown players with Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake, respectively. Morris, who is out for the season with a torn ACL, led the way with an impressive rookie campaign. Baird so far looks to be on the same trajectory this year ahead of Saturday’s game against Seattle.
SOUNDERS AT RSL
When • Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
TV • KMYU
Baird and Morris roomed together for Morris’ last season at Stanford. Morris remembers coming back to the room most days to find Baird playing League of Legends. Baird’s love of gaming hasn’t subsided; when he scored his third MLS goal this season, he celebrated with a dance from Fortnite.
The 2015 championship, the first of three in a row for Stanford, “was a wonderful culmination of a pretty special journey with a core group of players,” said Stanford coach Jeremy Gunn, who took over the program in 2012. “The original foundation came through hard work and trying to be a rock-solid team. And then I think by 2015, we’d really added the extra attacking flare and the extra attacking pieces that meant not only were we a tough team to play against, but we were also a great team to go out and score lots of goals.”
Morris led the way in that aspect. He scored 13 goals in 2015 and became the first Stanford men’s soccer player to win the MAC Hermann Trophy.
“His speed is unbelievable, and finishing, so he’s always going to be a threat,” said Baird. “He’s always dangerous in the final third, and I think you saw it in the tournament where every little chance he had he buried.”
Morris signed with Seattle in January, 2016, and scored 12 goals in his rookie season. Meanwhile, Baird won two more national championships with Stanford.
As Baird transitioned to the professional ranks, signing with RSL in January, he texted Morris, among others, for advice.
According to Baird, Morris’ message was: “As a rookie everything changes from when you’re in college and you’re kind of one of the top guys. So really just put your head down and work hard. Don’t be noticed for something you’re doing off the field; be noticed for what you’re doing on the field.”
Baird said those words have helped. Originally expected to get much of his playing time with the Real Monarchs in the USL, Baird has instead started five of RSL’s past six matches at forward.
“Playing with Corey, I always knew how talented and how special of a player he was,” Morris said. “And sometimes people can fly under the radar a little bit, but I always knew. … I’m super excited to see where this goes with him, and I would love to maybe one day play on the national team together or play with him again.”