Real Salt Lake full of praise for hat trick hero Javier Morales: "He can do special things"

Coming into Sunday's game in Houston, Real Salt Lake midfielder Javier Morales had yet to score this season. Following his team's 5-2 win in Houston, Morales is the team's third-leading scorer. 

And he got his hat trick going early, chipping Dynamo 'keeper Tally Hall 15 seconds into the match — the fourth-fastest goal in league history — to give RSL lead they never relinquished.

“Special play by a special player,” RSL coach Jeff Cassar told reporters about the Argentinian's early goal.

His teammates were also full of praise.

“That's our guy,” said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman of his midfield partner. “That's who Javi is. It was a great game for him, and one that's exciting for the fans of Real Salt Lake, because he can do special things.”

“I think we started pretty focused and we take chances," goalkeeper Nick Rimando said afterwards. "That was great for us. You never expect to get a goal in 20 seconds, but we expect to win the game.”

Morales downplayed that early goal, calling it “lucky.”

If it was luck, it was only the beginning of perhaps his luckiest MLS match ever. In the 17th minute, the man around whom the Salt Lake offense revolves scored off a corner kick from forward Joao Plata and a deflected shot by midfielder Ned Grabavoy.

In the 78th minute, Morales assisted a goal scored by midfielder Luke Mulholland. And in the 89th minute, he scored on a penalty kick after Hall fouled RSL forward Devon Sandoval in front of the goal.

This was Morales' first hat trick in … well the last time he had a hat trick was “with Santi at home,” he said with a laugh, referencing his 9-year-old son, Santiago. “Never as a professional. Even in the lower divisions, never.”

It was the sixth hat trick in Real Salt Lake history. Alvaro Saborio has three; Robbie Findley has one; and former RSL player/coach Jason Kreis had the others.

In between all his heroics, the Claret-and-Cobalt's first-ever win in Houston was just this side of crazy. The early goal was followed by a red card to Houston's Servando Carrasco, and Rimando saving a penalty kick by Houston's Giles Barnes to preserve his team's two-goal lead.

“That was massive,” Cassar noted of the save. “Massive. And that's what Nicky does for us. Just when things could maybe turn for the worse, Nicky makes one of those big saves.”

Rimando has saved 21 of the 62 PKs he's faced in MLS play.

“That was huge,” echoed Beckerman. “We feel like we've got a good chance that Nick is going to save it.”

The win kept RSL (5-0-5) unbeaten on the season and extended their regular-season unbeaten streak to 15 matches. Oddly enough, they have now won more road games (3) than home games (2), although they've played six of their first 10 matches on the road.

It was the first time Salt Lake has scored five goals in MLS play since a 5-0 win over New England on July 2, 2010. RSL are now 1-8-1 all time in Houston. 

“It's good to get that little monkey off our back,” Cassar said. “And getting three points is the most important.”

The players were certainly happier about the win than the end of the streak.

“It's a different year, a different game,” Grabavoy told reporters. “We feel like we can go anywhere and win games.”