SANDY, Utah — Bad blood is often a part of professional sports. Hard fouls and harder losses have a way of adding up through the years. Add in a playoff race, and it can all make for a volatile mix.
But there's no talk of retribution being the story when Real Salt Lake visit Chivas USA on Saturday (10:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer), facing them for the first time since a gruesome injury that resulted in a broken ankle for star playmaker Javier Morales back in early May.
RSL head coach Jason Kreis admits that revenge for a teammate’s injury unfortunately can be part of professional sports, but he’s not concerned about that in this situation.
“It happens every now and again, where one player will lose his mind for a few moments," he said Friday, "but I just don’t think that’s our group at all."
The perpetrator on the play in which Morales was injured was fellow Argentine Marcos Mondaini, the Chivas USA attacker who was tracking back and attempting to block a Morales shot. The two players did not know each other prior to that, but according to Morales they have made “peace.”
“He called me right after my injury at the hospital,” said Morales. “Everything is OK with him. It’s just soccer. It happened. It was a bad tackle, and a bad situation, but it’s over for me. I’ve just talked to him a few times by phone, but it feels like he’s a good guy.”
Mondaini, it turns out, was teammates with RSL striker Fabián Espíndola in the Boca Juniors youth squad.
“I know him a little bit,” added Espíndola. “I know he’s a good guy. I don’t think it was on purpose.”
So does Morales expect that this upcoming match against Chivas will be a bit emotional?
“No, not really,” said Morales. “It’s just that I’m wondering about my team. We lost a couple of games in the last few matches, and so I’m wishing the best to my teammates. It’s not important to me about my injury.”
RSL’s Will Johnson, who had some harsh words after Mondaini’s tackle, agreed that the entire team has moved past the incident, and the recent lack of results has the Claret-and-Cobalt focused on something much more important than extracting revenge.
“I think we’re all professional,” analyzed Johnson. “We’ve all moved on from that situation. The league dealt with it. Javier and [Mondaini] dealt with it, and they moved on. I don’t see that being a problem. I think it’s a game with two teams fighting for a playoff spot, and that’s all there is to it.”