SALT LAKE CITY — Real Salt Lake got a surprise boost on Monday with the news that both playmaker Javier Morales and defender Chris Wingert will travel with them for a midweek matchup on Wednesday against the New York Red Bulls (8 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
There are, however, tempered expectations for Morales, who went down with a broken ankle in early May and has steadily worked his way back with eyes on a return in the fall. In fact, the trip is simply continued training for Morales, and he’s highly unlikely to see time at Red Bull Arena.
“I’m going to New York because the team travels the whole week, so I have to train,” Morales told reports on Monday morning at Salt Lake City International Airport shortly before the team departed for its East Coast trip. “I can’t lose any training, so I have to go and train every day, and we’ll see. Maybe two or three [weeks] and I’ll play again.”
Head coach Jason Kreis, for his part, admitted that Morales is “very close to being ready to play,” which is welcome news for a Salt Lake club that over took FC Dallas for the third spot in the Western Conference with a 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.
Wingert, meanwhile, saw 45 minutes of action during the RSL reserves game on Sunday. He’s still outfitted with a cast for the broken wrist suffered on Aug. 13.
“It felt great,” Wingert said. “I don’t feel too rusty because I’ve been practicing and stuff which is great. It’s always good to get game minutes, though, and so it was nice for me to get a half [on Sunday].”
Wingert, a Long Island, N.Y., native, would like to see action on Wednesday, as he has a number of friends and family coming to the match, but he feels like Saturday is more likely at D.C. United.
“I would love to play on Wednesday, but I have a feeling that they’re not going to allow me to do that,” he said. “But [I’m] trying to be patient and listen to doctor’s orders as I continue to push them to let me play a little bit, but hopefully it will be soon.”
Wingert’s re-introduction would be a big relief for the team as they lost fullback Tony Beltran for two to four weeks to an adductor strain that he suffered in Sunday’s reserve match.
“They bring so much to us,” defender Nat Borchers said of Wingert and Morales. “Not just on the field, but with their attitudes in the locker room. They’re just so much fun to be around – so positive. So it’s going to be fantastic just to have them in training on the road, have them in the hotel is fantastic. [We’ll] really cross our fingers as to when we’re going to have them back.”