Alex Morrell was tabbed a 'dynamite athlete' on draft day by general manager Nelson Rodríguez, and the first five days of Chicago Fire training served to show why.
A lean 5-7, 135 pounds, the University of North Florida product has impressed with his pace and wide play in the camp’s early going. His versatility helped land him on the radar of Fire brass during the MLS Combine, where he felt he even showed well at right back despite having no prior experience at the position.
“It was so exciting, I was with my family and friends and when I heard my name called so I was just extremely excited,” Morrell said of being selected No. 22 overall by the Fire in the MLS SuperDraft. “I got a call from Nelson and he had some good things to say and I just couldn’t wait to come up here and get started.”
Since arriving, Morrell -- who in 2015 helped lead North Florida to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in the program's 25-year history -- has felt at ease not just on the field but in building camaraderie with his new teammates. While standing for this interview, the rookie took a friendly water bottle squirt to the midsection from Eric Gehrig, a small testament to the atmosphere within camp during week one.
“Everyone’s really positive here, joking around at times but getting serious when we’re out on the field, and that’s what matters,” Morrell said. “Pauno, Logan (Pause) and Marko (Mitrovic) have all been really great to work with so far.”
If the speedy Morrell was feeling any measure of home sickness while in Chicago, it’s likely to dissipate now that the team has begun a two-week training stint in Tampa, just a short ride from his hometown of Lakeland.
“It should be warm down there and a good setting for us," Morrell said, "so we’re going to get at it.”
The Fire arrived in Tampa on Sunday and are set to play two preseason matches while in Florida (Saturday, Feb. 6 vs. South Florida; Thursday, Feb. 11 vs. Philadelphia Union). Look for training camp roster updates, news and coverage from Tampa beginning Monday.