A father-son connection is a natural one in the sporting world. And in the world of soccer, an 18-year-old standout is usually miles away from their family when they make the jump to professional life. In Cincinnati, FC Cincinnati 2 defender Morgan Marshall is a rare exception getting his first professional minutes under his father and head coach Tyrone’s watch.
Morgan, a defender just like his father, turned 18 just two months ago and has already earned nine starts in his professional debut campaign.
It isn’t because he’s the coach’s son, though. As you might suspect, their blood relation is something they let others figure out for themselves.
“They’ll find out after maybe six or seven practices...” Tyrone told MLSNEXTPro.com. “Because I try to make sure it’s all professional and treat Morgan just like I would any other player.
“At the end of the day, I know he’s my kid, but I try not to give him any favors,”
Though Morgan should not expect any favors, the advantages of growing up in the household of a stalwart Jamaican international with multiple MLS and U.S. Open Cup rings in his collection can inspire almost anyone, to say the least.
From the time he was old enough to remember, the younger Marshall effectively had an all-access pass to what life as a pro looked like, and it went a long way in his decision to go down the same path.
“We would go everywhere with him,” he said while unsuccessfully trying to suppress a smile. “We would be in the locker room with him after the games while he was getting interviewed, we'd be in his locker, just always around him and always around the environment of the professionals.”
Being a generational athlete comes with those sorts of advantages and an undeniable pressure to live up to expectations. Now Morgan is sitting next to his dad, co-starring in interviews, and if he has it his way, he will be the sole subject of many more, perhaps on another continent.
“What I want to really do, is try to make it to Europe at some point in my career and be there for a little bit and be able to support my family,” the youngster said.
Morgan’s dreams are ones he supports, but the senior Marshall’s career is a tough act to follow. With 83 Jamaican caps, 15 years of MLS experience, and a host of domestic titles to his name just as a player, soccer is always going to be a big part of the Marshall family, though he was not necessarily attached to the outcome of his children following his path.
“Yes and no,” he said when asked if he ever thought he would be in this situation. “Obviously, you want your kid to follow in your footsteps. But at the same time, you don’t want to put the pressure on him.”
Morgan is the eldest but not the only Marshall in the Cincinnati academy pipeline. His younger brothers Kingston and Marley, FCC U-14 and U-19 players, respectively, are already well along with their soccer careers.
“I want them to choose their own path. And if soccer is what they choose to do, then I’m going to give them all the tools and all of the encouragement that they need to pursue that dream.
“But, it was never my goal to say, ‘Hey, you should go and play pro, it’s up to them.”
That said, Morgan was born in the middle of Tyrone’s run as a pro, and he couldn’t help himself from dropping some knowledge early on.
“From the day he started to walk and stand up straight, that was the day I started coaching him,”
“When he was maybe two or three years old, (I was) talking about ‘Hey, you need to work on your juggling’, from way back when. ‘Kick the ball over here, use your left foot’. I was always encouraging him to use his left instead of his right foot because it’s rare to have those left-footed players and if you start developing them from a young age, eventually they might become a lefty right?”
So far, Morgan has carved out a role as FC Cincinnati 2's first-choice fullback on the right side. From the back line, he has contributed an assist on top of going 80+ minutes in eight of his nine starts in 2022.
"It means a lot that he can trust me playing the full 90 minutes, which is huge from coming from the academy, and then coming straight into this professional environment," Morgan said of his workload.
It is a special moment that is not likely to last very long. Between the unpredictable nature of the coaching carousel and the journey of a young professional, next season is not promised for anyone in the soccer world.
"When he moves out of my environment when I'm not around him, he's gonna deal with other coaches that, (there is) not favoritism, there's no bias in that sense. He has to learn how to deal with those different personalities, so, I'm trying to teach him now,
"On the ride home, yeah, I'll be dad and I'll get in his ear but once we're on the pitch, it's coach time,"
The philosophy of trying to treat all your young players like your son might in fact make it easier when your son is literally out there. For Tyrone, it is more than a popular cliché, it is a special part of the fabric of the approach he is deploying in the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro campaign.
"I do the same for all my players, I try to treat them like my kid, in the sense that I can put my arm around and when times are good, and also when times are bad, because I think that's how you develop the young players,
"They need someone to lean on when it's good, and when it's bad. Because ultimately, you need those kids to go into battle for you. And if you can encourage them when the times are good, and when times are bad, they'll go out and they'll work for you."