SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake may have won their Saturday afternoon match against Chivas USA, 1-0, but in the locker room following the game, it certainly didn’t feel like it.
For starters, RSL struggled to break down a nine-man opponent for 55-plus minutes. But there was something much bigger on the minds of everyone at the club: the horrific injury to teammate Javier Morales.
“It’s difficult to deal with,” head coach Jason Kreis said. “You could see the emotions on a lot of the player’s faces that were on the field, and it was difficult to get past it. [There are] a lot of difficult things happening to us at the moment.”
Morales was the victim of a poorly timed tackle from behind by fellow Argentine Marcos Mondaini in the late stages of the first half. The gruesome injury, which was later diagnosed as a fracture-dislocation of the left ankle along with torn ligaments, left his RSL teammates visibly upset.
“It was a bad one from behind,” team captain Kyle Beckerman said. "I came up and it looked like his shoe fell off, but his shoe was still on and his ankle was somewhere else.”
Beckerman’s initial reaction was anger and he immediately went after his opponents after seeing the injury.
“I just felt so bad for him," Beckerman said.
It did not appear that the tackle was malicious — more clumsy and ill-advised. Mondaini was apologetic after the match.
“It was a very unfortunate play,” said Mondaini. “I never have an intention of hurting anyone. I want to tell Morales that I wish he recovers promptly. I hope he’s playing on the field soon.”
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look as though that will be the case. Morales was taken to the hospital and examined immediately after the injury. He will undergo surgery on Monday and is expected to miss at least four months.
Kreis said he thought the offense deserved the red card that it received, but he added that the tackle was not comparable to that which Steve Zakuani suffered in Colorado two weeks ago.
“To be honest, from what I saw, I didn’t think it was the most flagrant of fouls,” Kreis said. “I really don’t think it was that egregious.”
Kreis also described what some had thought was an angry exchange of words with Chivas USA coach and former RSL assistant Robin Fraser.
“He knows Javier and cares about him,” said Kreis, indicating that he was just passing along what they knew about the injury.
RSL had their struggles on the field after the injury despite playing with a two-man advantage. However, midfielder Will Johnson admitted that even his late game winner wasn’t very satisfying.
“On days like this, wins and losses just don’t even seem relevant," Johnson said.