Soccer: Aidan Morris helps New Albany Eagles, Columbus Crew SC to historic seasons

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Midfielder Aidan Morris celebrates Columbus Crew SC's 3-0 win over Seattle in the MLS Cup on Dec. 12. Morris is a 2019 New Albany graduate who helped the Eagles boys soccer team this fall as a volunteer assistant coach.

Aidan Morris downplayed his record-setting contributions in Columbus Crew SC’s MLS Cup final win Dec. 12, calling himself “just a kid kicking a ball around.”

Having turned 19 on Nov. 16, Morris — a midfielder and 2019 graduate of New Albany — became the youngest starter in the Cup final’s 25-year history when a positive COVID-19 test forced Darlington Nagbe to sit out.

He also became the youngest player in MLS Cup history to record an assist, helping on Lucas Zelarayan’s first goal in the first half as Crew SC defeated the Seattle Sounders 3-0 at Mapfre Stadium.

“(It’s just about) having fun,” Morris told reporters after the MLS Cup final. “I am alongside the guys I love playing with. They’re amazing teammates. It goes back to (the coaching) staff and the teammates. They make it enjoyable every day. I never go a day without loving it.”

That love of the game extends to all levels.

When he wasn’t playing or practicing with Crew SC, Morris spent much of his fall as a volunteer assistant coach with the New Albany boys soccer team. The Eagles enjoyed a historic run of their own, winning their first Division I regional championship and finishing as state runners-up, losing to Cleveland St. Ignatius 4-1 in the state final Nov. 14, four weeks to the day before Crew SC’s championship win on the same field.

“One practice, he walked in and asked me if he could volunteer. He’s played for some of the best coaches in the world,” Eagles coach Johnny Ulry said. “I didn’t care if he was 18; I wanted to pick his brain.”

Morris, who is from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, played for Crew SC Academy from 2017-19. He lives with the family of Kasey and Rebecca Kist, whose son, Kameron, was a starting midfielder for New Albany and was named OCC-Ohio Division Player of the Year, first-team all-district and second-team all-state.

“When I’d sub guys off during matches, (Morris) would talk to them and give advice,” Ulry said. “He’d play with the kids in practice. He’d be part of our drills and scrimmage with them and he was at probably 98 percent of our games, including all of them in the postseason. He said he just wanted to be a part of everything.”

Morris played one season for Indiana in 2019, scoring two goals and recording a team-leading eight assists to be named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. He was signed by Crew SC as a homegrown player on Jan. 14 and appeared in 10 games, starting two.

Crew SC midfielder Aidan Morris battles Seattle's Raul Ruidiaz during the MLS Cup on Dec. 12 at Mapfre Stadium.

Morris' primary assignment during the MLS Cup was to help shut down Sounders forward Nico Lodeiro, who scored seven goals this season and often was pivotal to Seattle’s offense.

“I thought he was unbelievable,” Crew SC coach Caleb Porter said of Morris. “(He) got around (and) tackled. Tackling and defending and winning duels for some reason has become a curse word, but in any good team, any good team in the world, they have a guy that’s going to win balls, and he won a ton of balls.”

Morris said he simply was following two personal beliefs that night.

“The key message drilled into my head was always to be ready,” he said. “Nothing is impossible. That’s another motto I live by. … There are always opportunities and every time I got an opportunity this year, I tried to take full advantage.”

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave