SANDY, Utah — Sometime late in the second half of Real Salt Lake’s contest against the Chicago Fire at Rio Tinto Stadium on Wednesday night (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online), expect an emotional moment to occur.
Playmaker and fan favorite Javier Morales is set to make his much-anticipated return to the RSL lineup against Chicago, marking the first time he has stepped on the pitch since siffering a broken ankle in early May. His return in front of the home crowd should be a fitting one, as the loss of the charismatic Argentine had a considerable emotional impact on the squad and its supporters.
But it almost didn’t work out this way. It appeared that his return was set to come on the road at D.C. United last Saturday, but head coach Jason Kreis pulled back on those plans, indicating that it “just didn’t feel right.”
“We're looking to get him involved at some point,” Kreis told reporters after practice on Tuesday. “It is a necessity to get him going again so that he can figure for us down the stretch and into the playoffs.”
Although the team has fought through the season without their playmaker, his presence is crucial as they make a push into the playoffs. If Morales is to see time on Wednesday, then it could allow him to see even more minutes on Saturday in an important battle against the LA Galaxy.
Just how long he’ll play, and when he’ll come on is unknown, although it’s generally expected that he’ll be a late substitute and see 15 to 20 minutes of field action. But whenever that happens, expect it to be a special moment for the player, and all of those in the stadium.
For Morales, and the RSL fan base, the return is long overdue.
"I'm excited,” said Morales, who compared the anticipation to his rookie season more than 10 years ago. “I've been waiting for this moment for a long time.”