MLS Cup: Citing the frigid weather, Real Salt Lake's Javier Morales wants a return to neutral venue
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Real Salt Lake's MLS Cup 2013 penalty-kick loss to Sporting Kansas City -- 1-1 (AET), 7-6 in the shootout -- will go down as the coldest game in MLS history since they started recording game temperatures a decade ago.
And Real Salt Lake playmaker Javier Morales didn't like it one bit. So much so that the veteran is calling for a return to the old format of a neutral venue for the MLS Cup final.
"I believe so. It's the best," Morales told MLSsoccer.com after the match. "Soccer is better if we play in the warm [weather]. I couldn't talk. I couldn't talk at halftime [on Saturday]. I was shaking. I don't know, maybe the league has to see that.
"It's not an excuse, but I think it's better for soccer to play in the warm [temperatures]. And you have a lot of [places]. Maybe Houston, Dallas, LA. You have a lot of places to choose to go play there."
MLS played its championship matches in neutral venues through the 2011 season, awarding MLS Cup home field advantage to the finalist with the best regular season record beginning in 2012.
On Saturday, the temperature was 20 degrees Fahrenheit at kick off and it continued to dip as the afternoon turned into evening. The weather conditions meant the Sporting Park field was frozen in spots, making it difficult for players to maintain their footing.
"It's not fun to play in that kind of weather," Morales told MLSsoccer.com after the match. "My toes were freezing the first 20 minutes and I looked to the bench to give me something because I couldn't feel my toes."
Morales remembered being in Toronto for another frigid MLS Cup in 2010 and commented that "it was really bad, too. Even to watch the game."
The 33-year-old Argentine midfielder was on the field for the entire 120 minutes of MLS Cup 2013 -- "for me it was a bit ugly to play," he said -- but he generated just one shot and two scoring chances, including chipping a ball off the post in the 73rd minute. According to Opta statistics, he also had 21 unsuccessful passes and was dispossessed 30 times.
"I understand why he would say that [about the MLS Cup venue]" said Morales' teammate, midfielder Ned Grabavoy. "Look, I’m not up in the MLS front office. There’s a reason that these decisions are made. I think if you look at the end of the season in league play it’s tough to argue that teams weren’t fighting for every point, knowing that home field could be awarded.
"I’m sure there’s different reasons why but everyone is going to tell you that the field was difficult for both teams. "
"[The weather] is not an excuse," Morales reiterated. "I'm not saying we lost the game because of the field. I'm talking because it's better for everyone, for you, for players, for coaches: I believe for soccer you need warm weather to play a good game. Especially a final. Everyone is watching."