From Amazon to Amazing
The last 13 months for Tavoy Morgan can be summed up in just four words:
From Amazon to amazing.
Working at an Amazon facility in New Haven, Conn. because the Harrisburg Heat could not play due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Morgan got a call from the San Diego Sockers that changed his life and the course of the 2021 Major Arena Soccer League season.
He joined the team on loan and helped the Sockers capture the Ron Newman Cup.
"I didn't know what to expect because I was new," Morgan said. "So, I was just feeling blessed, knowing I was quite lucky at the same time that I made the right decision.
"I came home with a championship.”
This season the Jamaican native has emerged as one of the MASL's top scoring threats as San Diego enters the playoffs as favorites to take another victory lap with the coveted trophy.
Last March, scoring goals for a professional team was not a priority; packing shipping boxes were.
Until that call.
Morgan was ready to play. He kept fit by playing indoor soccer as many as three times a week - on Monday and Wednesday nights and occasionally on Sunday.
He fit in with the team quite quickly. It certainly didn't hurt that veteran defender Nelson Santana, who was the forward's mentor in Harrisburg, had signed with the Sockers earlier last year.
"When I came here, and I saw Nellie Santana, I was really happy," he said. "That was a good feeling for me. He helped me a lot on and off the field."
Morgan gave his new team another weapon up front besides the dangerous Kraig Chiles.
"They saw my strong points," he said. "They ran off of me. It worked most of the time.
"They needed a guy like me when they saw how I played, different from Kraig Chiles."
That included his ability to hold the ball.
The 2021 regular season was a difficult one for the Sockers, who opted to compete, despite having to play all their games, including the playoffs, on the road due to pandemic restrictions in San Diego. After finishing a un-Sockers-like 4-6 record in a truncated season, the team caught fire in the postseason, winning six of seven matches.
"It was the focus that we had. We fought for each other," Morgan said. "We told each other it's a win-win situation. We had good leadership. Those guys are good leaders. When we're down, they talked to us and calmed things down."
The 5-9, 180-lb. forward played the final three regular season matches, collecting three goals and an assist. In seven postseason games, Morgan added two goals and three assists.
The Sockers dispatched the Tacoma Stars in the quarterfinals and the Florida Tropics in the semifinals before winning their fifth consecutive playoff game, besting the Ontario Fury, 7-3, in the final series. After the Fury won the second encounter, 6-5, San Diego prevailed in the mini-game, 2-1, to win its first indoor championship since the 2012-13 Premier Arena Soccer League season.
"Unbelievable," he said. "I came here to make a change and to win that championship. You still have to cherish those moments.
"I really wanted to come back, and that championship has pushed me a lot this season. It was a lot of motivation."
You might say that the 27-year-old Morgan was born to play soccer, even before he was born.
He said his mother Janet watched many soccer games when she was pregnant with him.
"She never missed a game," he said. "I always kicking [inside]. Since I came out, she knew where to find some soccer fields."
Morgan started playing at the age of two, earning the nickname Bull in primary school.
"I kicked the ball really hard and far," he said. "So I got the name, Bull, because I was strong."
At the age of 18 in 2013, Morgan and his mother Janet, who was getting married, moved to Bridgeport, Conn. He scored 16 goals in one high school season. Colleges were interested but Morgan wanted to pursue a professional soccer career.
"Soccer keeps me happy. That's my passion," he said. "That's the only thing I grew up doing, playing soccer. That's why people know me for soccer. I can do nothing but soccer with my talent that God blessed me."
He was a vital member of the Elm City Express's 2017 National Premier Soccer League championship team, bagging a brace in a 5-0 win over Midland-Odessa in the final.
Morgan joined the Heat for the 2018-19 MASL season, and made a quick transition to the indoor game, in contrast to many players who need several seasons to learn its intricacies.
"It was a little bit different with the rules, but it was like a game that kind of meant for me because indoor soccer is where I can trap the ball, using the ball," he said. "They say it's like basketball. It's like hockey. I used to watch old tape and I tried to learn from it as a rookie. Nellie Santana taught me. It was pretty fun. Quick goals. It's exciting. I love it."
He was named to the MASL All-Rookie Team, accumulating 23 goals and 10 assists in 24 games. Morgan added 19 goals and five assists in 13 appearances during the 2019-20 campaign before getting his opportunity with the Sockers.
Morgan felt his time with the Heat was well spent, learning the game and making friends, such as Santana, who became a mentor.
"It was a good experience to really learn a lot, meet guys," he said. "They treated me. It was just that time for me to try somewhere else."
That somewhere else was San Diego, to whom he was traded by Harrisburg prior to his campaign.
Getting an opportunity to play at home with many players at the top of their game, the Sockers have been unstoppable, finishing the season at 23-0-1. Morgan has played a big part, enjoying a career year. He connected for 39 goals and 49 points good for second and third in the league, respectively, behind Milwaukee's Ian Bennett in both categories.
The secret to his and the Sockers' success?
It's about being more focused.
"Guys know when to pass the ball," he said. "I'm just more focused. I just have to stay focused and finish my chances as I get them on the field. They [teammates] also push me.
"The game plan that coach gave us is really working from last year. We just have to continue that."
The defending champions will play their first quarterfinal match against the Milwaukee Wave at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena at 7:35 p.m. ET tonight before hosting their rivals at Pechanga Arena San Diego on Sunday, April 10 at 8:05 p.m. ET.
The Sockers warmed up for the postseason with an 11-4 home victory over the Florida Tropics in their penultimate game of the regular season on March 31. Morgan scored four times during a 7:38 span in the opening quarter en route to a five-goal game.
"We wanted to set the tone going into the playoffs," he said. "We don't want to lose any games. We just want to keep playing, keep our foot on the gas, no matter who we played. That's the mentality that we have."
In their lone regular season confrontation with the Wave, the Sockers recorded a 13-2 home triumph on Feb. 27. Morgan also had five goals in that encounter, needing four periods to reach that total.
That game is history to Morgan and his teammates. He said that the Sockers need to look forward, although they will look at the video of the February match to be reminded of the Wave's tendencies.
"We just have to stay focused on the road, come home and take care of things on Sunday," he said.
If you haven’t caught on by now, keeping focused is important to Morgan, who liked his team's chances.
"We just stay focused and limit the mistakes because we see that that's the only thing can beat us," he said. "So, we're working on everything, knowing we go with another favorite. We just have to keep our foot on the gas and take it off. Hopefully, we come out victorious."
Asked about the possibility of winning a second championship, Morgan replied, "That will mean so much to me that I could do it again with the same guys. When I came here, I didn't know what to expect. And to have such a good year means so much to me and my teammates. I would be just so proud, honestly."
And it would be pretty amazing for someone who worked at Amazon just 13 months ago.
Michael Lewis, the editor of FrontRowSoccer.com, can be followed on Twitter at @SoccerWriter. He can be reached via email at Michael@FrontRowSoccer.com. His book Alive and Kicking: The incredible, but true story of the Rochester Lancers, recently was published. It can be purchased at https://tinyurl.com/2p8rzhpy.