Aidan Morris transfer unpacked - Trait Middlesbrough will love and Columbus 'heartbreak' at deal

While different environments will always bring varying results for players, often an early indicator of any kind of business is looking at the reaction of the supporters of the selling club. And in the case of Middlesbrough's third summer recruit: midfielder Aidan Morris, the reaction from Columbus Crew supporters is very promising, to say the least.

“Fans here are heartbroken he’s leaving," Columbus Dispatch reporter Brianna MacKay tells Teesside Live. "He’s been a cornerstone of this team for so long now and done so much for the team. The players all loved him too. They call him the ‘heart of the team’ and I know he’ll certainly be missed. But playing in England is something he’s spoken about doing for a long time now, so I completely understand why he’s jumping at this opportunity.”

Morris' move to Boro comes with plenty of expectation. A player they've been tracking for 18 months now, Michael Carrick described himself as 'excited' to work with the USA international. At 22, he already has over 100 appearances on his CV and helped Columbus win two MLS Cups since breaking through their academy in 2020.

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Boro officials believe that Morris is a ready-made Championship player who can have an immediate impact at the Riverside. Their top midfield target, he arrives to replace Lewis O'Brien, following his loan spell last term. For most Boro fans, however, Morris will be a relative unknown.

Therefore, offering an insight into Morris, Brianna continued: “He’s a player who can do both sides of the game comfortably. He’s chipped in with goals and assists for Crew and passing is probably one of the strongest aspects of his game.

"In his final game here in Columbus he went 88 from 89 passes. He’s very quick with that too; he won’t dwell on the ball longer than he needs to. He’s not afraid to take a shot either, if he sees an opportunity.

“I started covering Columbus Crew in November 2023 and in that time Aidan has been a staple in their lineup. Columbus fans have a chant for Aidan that is, ‘he’s here, he’s there, he’s everywhere’ and that sums him up perfectly.

"Wilfried Nancy has actually told him at times that he runs too much. He is such an intense player so he’s always going, always ultra-focused and so Wilfried has been trying to work with him to ensure he’s running the right amount and being where he needs to be on the pitch. They’ve been working a lot on him controlling that energy. But everyone knows him as a hard worker and that’s made him a favourite here."

While it is his comfort in possession that has attracted him most to Boro officials, the hard-working element, tough tackling nature and defensive solidity is something that will likely quickly endear him to fans at the Riverside.

Adding to Brianna's thoughts, MLS Soccer expert and freelance journalist Charles Boehm said: "He's a modern central midfielder capable of multiple tasks: sitting deep, box to box, roving and destroying, dictating with the ball.

"Morris was considered a No. 6 when he moved from the Crew academy into the first team, but since then he's evolved in the direction of a No. 8, with a wider range of passing and tactical awareness. Morris and Darlington Nagbe are the heart/engine of the team -- they have to do a bit of everything on both sides of the ball, and are generally quite good at it.

"Wilfried Nancy has worked magic right across that Crew team, but Morris might just be his most successful project -- the Frenchman identified him as a linchpin for his game model upon arrival last year and nurtured real growth from him, particularly in terms of the recognition and distribution required to read the opposition's shape and principles, bait them into pressing and then play through them.

"While his passing range has grown markedly over the past few years, Morris' engine has always been excellent and I expect that to be key to his prospects in English football. He can cover a ton of ground, is firm in the tackle and, over time, has developed an increasingly complete toolkit for what to do with the ball when he wins it. That ties into his personality - he's a grinder, he works hard and approaches his profession with intensity and focus, and has done so since he was a teenager."

Described by Brianna as an 'intense' player too, Morris's determined nature can be both a strength and a weakness. She notes: “As a product of still being 22, he could definitely control his emotions better.

"Sometimes on the field, when things aren’t going as well as he’d hope, you can see the frustrations start to seep into his play. He’s been prone, if the team are down late in a game, to take silly shots or make silly fouls which the team could do without.

"It’s just a case of letting the frustration get the better of him at times, but it’s certainly not a case of giving up. I think that’s a by-product of being so young and being so dedicated to the game."

Boro will hope to nurture that dedication and winning mentality to develop Morris into a Championship midfield destroyer next season. Charles certainly feels it's the perfect next step in his fledgling career.

"Morris' next challenge is taking all the good things he's been doing for Columbus and executing them at a higher level at higher speeds even more tidily than he already does," Charles continued. "It's why the Boro move feels like the right kind of chance at the right time.

"He's not really broken through at the senior international level for the US yet, partly because there's stiff competition for places, and partly because he hasn't consistently produced the required tempo in his half-dozen or so caps to date."

Boro are expected to give Morris time to adapt to the Championship, with Hayden Hackney, Jonny Howson, Dan Barlaser and Law McCabe giving them adequate options. But similar to how Rav van den Berg hit the ground running on Teesside last year, there are high hopes for Morris's ability to quickly adapt in England and establish himself in a Boro shirt.