From Ohio to Indiana to the Bay Area to Toronto, Justin Morrow has been around the block.
Born and raised in Cleveland, the 29-year-old found himself in the suburbs throughout his childhood, but he always knew where he eventually wanted to settle.
“My dad was a policeman so we technically had to be in the city limits, but we always lived on the edge of the suburbs so I didn’t grow up really in a city life,” Morrow says. “It’s nice to be here in a big city. I always saw myself somewhere like this.”
Now in his fourth season with the club, Toronto is much more than just the next stop as on his career path. Settling down with his wife and daughter, Morrow has come to appreciate all that the city has to offer.
“It’s a lot faster than what I was used to growing up, even in little and exciting ways,” he explains. “My wife would come home from work and my daughter might be having a cranky afternoon, so we’re like, ‘You know what, let’s not stay in the house today.’ We’ll walk around the city, find somewhere new to eat and that’s something you can’t do in the suburbs because everything is a lot more planned.”
Morrow hardly has a shortage of options to spend his off days in Toronto, but Trinity Bellwoods Park is often the destination for an impromptu Morrow family outing, sitting conveniently on Queen Street West.
There are so many things in this world that are troubling and can get you down, and if you lose that optimism, you lose your way. But it’s really easy to keep carrying on when you’re hopeful about where you’re at and the future and the path.
“My biggest hobby is getting to know the area I live in and so if my family doesn’t have anything to do, we usually come to Trinity Bellwoods,” he says. “We’ll come play in the park with my daughter, Chiara, and when she gets bored we’ll put her in the stroller and walk further down Queen Street and maybe get a cupcake and my wife will get a coffee so it’s a regular thing for us.”
“I love walking around the city with my family, maybe stop at a park and relax for a little bit and let the little one run around. We’ll stop at some shops here and there – that’s one of the things I love about Queen Street – there’s great shopping. I can’t call myself the most stylish person, but I really like that about Toronto. They have a lot of styles and trends and culture in that sense, so I enjoy that.”
Toronto’s reputation as a worldly, diverse city has come to be one of its defining features, but it has even more significance to Morrow and his family. His Paraguayan wife, Jimena, has found the city to be welcoming and accepting in ways that aren’t always the norm throughout the world.
“She loves to tell me about the diversity here and how she never feels out of place. Back home in the United States, it can be a little different sometimes.”
It’s just one of the many reasons that Morrow has come to appreciate Toronto as his new home, a place he can take pride in. On the field, the fruits of his labor are even more evident as his addition to the squad has coincided with a new era for Toronto FC, hardly a coincidence.
“I feel like my role on the team has been evolving throughout the years,” he says. “When I first got here, the team was changing. We just brought in the DPs, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Defoe and Gilberto and in that moment, TFC really showed how interested they were in winning.
“The most important thing now is that we’ve had a group of guys that have been together for a while. I’ve been here for four years, which in the past, that wasn’t really the trend in Toronto FC’s culture. A lot of players were in and out and we’ve had a joke in the past about how many players were in and out of this club. So now it’s about the group of guys that we have, this veteran group of guys that have been in the league for a while and understand what it’s been like. Then when you add pieces like Victor [Vazquez] and Seba [Giovinco], these guys that come from abroad that can add something special. It’s been great.”
Their recent success is a testament to the club’s new vision, and the consistency within the squad has reaped very tangible rewards. Changing the culture has been a point of pride for Morrow, making Toronto a place that feels like home on and off the pitch.
“If I ever leave or when I do leave, I’ll probably think of Toronto as my second home. I didn’t grow up too far from here, but I didn’t know anything about Canada before I came here. Since then, everything I’ve experienced has been positive.
“Getting sent here has been a blessing. It’s been a great experience and I’m happy to be here now.”